Native English-speaking people are either really lucky or really lazy, and I can never make up my mind which it is. Because every time I attend some kind of international gathering... a meeting, a trade show, an exhibit, or an event of some kind... it never ceases to amaze me how many non-English speaking people are fluent in several languages. And, of course, everybody knows English, which makes it the "lowest common denominator" for the internationally-minded traveler. I guess that puts "American-English" just one level above grunting and making obscene gestures, but at least you can watch the latest Julia Roberts movie once you've mastered it.
Since I am already fluent in English (which is debatable, I grant you) the incentive to learn a foreign language for practical purposes is quite low. Sure I can make basic conversation in Japanese, and know a smattering of helpful phrases in Spanish, French, Italian, and German, but that's a long way from fluency. In fact, unless the conversation is about finding a toilet, saying "thank you", or ordering a cheese sandwich, then I am pretty much useless.
And I hate that about myself.
Seriously... the kid clearing my lunch table here today knows German, French, Italian, English, and some Dutch. And I don't mean that he has memorized a few phrases so that he can ask "may I take your plate" - this guy can actually discuss the finer points of nuclear fission and the perils of using low grade uranium and light metals for the process, all in your choice of tongues.
And there you have one of the cultural differences that set us apart. In the USA, any native who is fluent in a foreign language is considered a genius and should be working as a translator at the United Nations to bring about world peace. In other countries, if you know five foreign languages, you are considered average and are qualified to handle dirty dishes in a restaurant.
I guess that makes native English-speaking people both lucky that we don't have to learn another language and lazy in that we so rarely bother. I feel really stupid today.
Oh, and before I forget, I received five emails about Hotel im Wasserturm, so I'll try and address the questions y'all have about it here in an extended entry (though, you should really try leaving comments so everybody can get involved... it's painless, and you don't have to even provide any personal information if you don't want to!).
Confidentiality agreements preclude me from ever discussing my work here on this blog, but I can say that I took a nice detour to the largest candy and biscuit show in the world today ("biscuit" meaning "cookie" for the benefit of any Americans out there). This fascinating trade show which showcases sweets from around the world is the ultimate exercise in restraint, because every booth is passing out free samples of the delectable treats they make. And, since this was the last day of the show, most companies are desperately trying to get rid of everything so that they don't have to take it home with them. As I understand it, at 18:00 hours, the doors are open to the public, and scores of German sweet-tooths descend like locusts on to the showroom, devouring anything in their path. I would have really liked to have seen that.
Anyway, walking the show takes an entire day, because that's just how big it is. Even then, I was practically running from booth to booth so I would get to sample see everything. Here are my top-three favorites...
Yes, BLUE PEEPS were representin' in the house! There's something to be said for going on a pure-sugar high, and Blue Peeps are the best way to do so if you don't want to mess with any wacky flavors or other distracting ingredients that are not sugar. I also scored some Necco Wafers, Tootsie Rolls, Lemonheads, Hot Tamales, and a handful of other sugar-fied favorites that are guaranteed to keep me entertained for hours. I'm hoping my coma doesn't hit until I finish this entry.
I'm a sucker for any product that dares to put a screaming monkey on their package, and this banana candy that comes out of Brazil is a class act. All that's missing is a word balloon which says "BUY THIS CANDY OR DIE!" coming from the naughty monkey, and our slow descent into Planet of the Apes style madness can begin (so I've gone ahead and taken care of that for them). Sadly, they didn't have any bags I could take with me, but I did get a taste and it definitely kicks ass monkey-style. I'm hoping that some American importer picked it up so I can buy it at my local grocery store. This has "cult-favorite" written all over it, and I need me my monkey candy fix bad.
There were a number of products that had me saying "WTF mate?" (Swiss Army Chocolate?)... and Jack Daniel's Fudge was definitely on that list. But it's not the fact that it's an alcohol-based candy which has me confused (it's about time!)... it's because the stuff is made in Australia. Yes, for a weekend of fun, nothing beats tossing a shrimp on the barbie and then getting wasted on whiskey fudge while shooting kangaroos, koala bears, and other adorable creatures in the land down-under. I am so proud that in addition to Starbucks coffee and McDonald's hamburgers, America is now starting to export our entire redneck lifestyle to other countries. Go America!
Well, I'm off to pack my bags for a few days of vacation. Hopefully I will have internet access where I'm going so I can post the FridayQ this week.
There's nothing quite like having to plan your next trip while in the middle of your current one. Especially in a foreign country at 4:00 in the morning. It's even worse when you consider the wild acrobatics you have to endure to find the best price. And that brings me to a rant that has been building for a long time...
Frequent travelers face a mystery that seems to defy logic every time they plan a trip: exactly how do airlines calculate their fare schedules? For example, my next trip is to Memphis, Tennessee. Coincidentally, Northwest Airlines has a hub there, so there is a direct flight out of Seattle (I should know, I was just there four days ago to transfer to my Amsterdam connection). Lucky break right? A direct flight with no connections is bound to be cheaper than a flight with a layover somewhere isn't it?
The answer, if you hadn't guessed, is "no."
Once my outbound flight from Wenatchee is removed, a direct flight from Seattle to Memphis is nearly a $600 round-trip. A staggering sum considering I flew all the way to Germany for $30 less (with two connections, one of them in Memphis!). But guess what? A flight from Seattle to Nashville (which requires a connection in Detroit) is just $320. WTF?!? That's that's almost half the cost! I wonder if there's something strange that happens when you calculate actual miles flown:
Nope, that's even worse! They charge 58% less per mile to fly 22% further, and that doesn't even begin to address all the extra costs that's involved in adding a second flight. What kind of bullshit economics is that? No wonder airlines are losing money! They charge less to use more fuel, more facilities, and more labor. The stupidity of such pricing is baffling to even the most mathematically challenged.
So guess what? I get to rent a car in Nashville then drive three hours to Memphis. Fine with me, they've got a swell Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, so I'll be stopping there for lunch before I go. And then I guess I'll be having dinner at the Hard Rock in Memphis later that evening. I was going to have to rent a car anyway and, with unlimited mileage, I will still save hundreds (even after the gas to get there is factored in). That's lame.
It would be easy to put all of this on Northwest Airlines, but it seems all major airlines are guilty of the same crazy shit. So the next time the airlines start crying about what bad shape they're in and go begging the government for a bail-out, I hope Uncle Sam tells them to go f#@% themselves and instead demand that they hire a financial manager to explain basic economic principles to the people who set the pricing, thus encouraging passengers to fly a route that costs airlines less, not more...
Sheesh! Hmmm... I'd better get packed. A few days vacation in a warmer climate awaits!
I took a quick two-hour flight on the ever-excellent GermanWings airline out of Cologne, and ended up in Barcelona. Since I had never been here before, it was going to be a new adventure for me. After taking the train into the city, I checked in to my hotel, grabbed my camera, and then headed out.
My first stop was The Cathedral, a compact yet no-less impressive church at the heart of Barcelona. Unfortunately, as with most places I've been visiting lately, the structure is completely covered in scaffolding and undergoing repairs. I was a little disappointed, but that vanished just moments after entering the grounds. It's hard to be upset when you are greeted by geese...
Leaving my new friends behind, I enter the building...
...and proceed to lose my mind. The architecture is just amazing here. Eventually I manage to tear myself away so I can go eat lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe...
Don't let the plain exterior fool you. Inside, it's all Hard Rock and very well done...
It's still fairly early, I think I'll go wander through Old Town and see what I can find.
The most famous street in all of Spain is "Las Ramblas" in Barcelona. Here you can find shops of every kind, from famous designer brands to street vendors selling pets, flowers, food, toys, and everything else you can imagine. As the sun began to set, I spied a glow off to the side and realized it was an open-air produce market. The "St. Josep Mercat" to be exact. From the outside, it looks like it might be a single street which has been covered to protect the vendors from the elements (artfully framed with stained glass tiles)...
Inside, it is entirely another matter, as it ends up being a huge, sprawling market with row after row of the most beautiful produce you've ever seen. Massive strawberries so red they seem to glow. Beautiful peppers so fresh their smell fills the air. Everywhere you look there's mountains of perfect food, all painted with a bright rosy light for maximum appetite appeal. A photo can't really capture how overwhelming an experience this is for the senses, but I decided to try anyway...
A few vendors were selling bowls of freshly cut fruits, so dessert was at hand! As I headed back to the hotel with my prize, I decided to take some side streets so I could get lost in the hundreds of back alleys and tiny walkways that create a vast maze in Old Town Barcelona...
As I sit here eating strawberries and typing away on my PowerBook, I am saddened that I've only got a day-and-a-half left in this amazing city. I can't wait until sunrise so I can begin exploring once again.
I write questions for the FridayQ weeks in advance, and already had a set ready for today. But, after reading an entry over at "My So Called Strife," I decided to use the questions for three weeks from now instead (and then modified them a bit), since they fit well into a question Kirkitsch was asking over at his blog...
On average, how many hours of sleep do you get each night? Four to Five. Do you think that's a good number? No, but it's all my body seems to need, so that's all I seem to get.
Have you any sleep essentials? A nightlight or teddy bear perhaps? Must the door and closet be either closed or open? I don't. With all the traveling I do, I kind of have to be able to fall asleep anywhere and under any conditions. I prefer total darkness and absolute quiet, as I find it easier to sleep that way, but I can do without them if need be.
What do you wear to bed? Boxer shorts and sometimes a T-shirt. What color are your sheets? Solid blue. How many pillows under your head? Two.
FQ BIG SLEEP: Share some helpful advice you use when having trouble falling asleep. I usually watch some television stacked on the TiVo or read a book or surf the internet. Not eating two hours before bedtime is also helpful.
Get tired of the FridayQ.
Given that this is my only full day in the city, I had made detailed plans as to how I wanted to spend it. I wrote down everything I wanted to see, then mapped from point to point, ensuring that I had the most efficient route planned. This is not the way I enjoy sightseeing, I loathe time-structured travel but, given my time constraints, it was the only thing I could do.
Museu Picasso: Most people only associate Pablo Picasso with his later, more surreal and abstract art. What seems to be overlooked is his earlier and equally brilliant works, forming a foundation from which his methods and stylistic choices were built. While a very nice museum, I actually think that Picasso is better represented in other venues I've seen. I was, however, blown away by a temporary exhibit of Alberto Magnelli works. This artist has a huge influence over my own painting efforts, and I was beside myself with excitement when I realized he was showing here. I've never seen so many of his works in one place, and cannot believe my good fortune in having seen this exhibit (it ends on Sunday!!). Sometimes I am the luckiest person on the planet.
The Arc del Triomf: A beautiful structure, and part of my effort to see city arches whenever I find them.
The Sagrada Familia: This was the most important thing on my list to see. To me, Gaudi is Barcelona, and this Modernista architectural marvel is his undisputed masterpiece even though it remains unfinished to this day, and he died before much was done on it. Wherever you look you see beauty in every form and, once it has been completed, I will be returning to Barcelona to see it (hopefully it will be finished in my lifetime!). Despite my extreme fear of heights, I took the lift to the top, and did my best to subdue my terror so I could look out over the city and better inspect the cathedral.
Casa Mila: Another Modernista wonder by Gaudi, Casa Mila is a bizarre structure, yet undeniably beautiful. There's something almost sinister about a building with no straight lines, but it somehow comes together as a compelling work of art.
Fundacio Joan Miro: I will admit I am not a Miro fan. On the contrary, I pretty much dislike every piece of "art" I've ever seen of his. Unlike Picasso, I never get the feeling that there's any talent behind his artistic endeavors, and they don't evoke any sort of emotional response either. All I see is a bunch of paint slopped on a canvas for no discernible reason. I did enjoy his "Barcelona Series" of lithographs, which are amusing doodles... almost cartoon-like in nature, but that was about it.
Museu Frederic Mares: This has to be one of the strangest museums I've ever seen. Mares collected very specific subjects, and being able to contrast and compare dozens of different versions inspired by the same source is enlightening. For example, where most museums would be content with one or two carvings of Jesus on the cross, Mares decided to show hundreds of them. All somewhat the same, but very different at the same time.
Salvador Dali: There wasn't time to visit Teatro-Museo Dali in Girona, but I was sure to stop by the exhibition here in Barcelona. Dali did so much more than the "melting clocks" that made him famous, and a nice chunk of that was on display, along with Dali photographs and sculpture.
All in all, a very full day that had me bouncing from one corner of the city to the other. Fortunately, Barcelona has an excellent public transportation, anchored by a terrific subway system. This allowed me to see everything on my list, and a few extra sights along the way. Only problem is that my legs are hurting from all the walking, and I am completely exhausted. I'd go to bed early and try to recover, but I'm meeting a friend for dinner and don't want to miss that!
It's kind of odd when an American and an Italian meet in an entirely different country, but that's what happens when you are both living the jet-set lifestyle! Anyway, my fellow Hard Rock fanatic was in the neighborhood (well, relatively speaking... she was only an hour's train ride away) and agreed to meet up with me at the Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Upon arrival, we both decided we'd much rather eat at an authentic Spanish tapas bar, then return to the HRC for dessert.
Unfortunately, after nearly exploding from eating too many different tapas (my favorite being "Patatas Bravas" - or spicy fried potatoes), we had no room for dessert! Still, it was great fun, and I was happy things worked out so that we could get together.
On the way to meet my friend, I ran across these two dogs who were very much bored at being tethered to a post, and were trying to entertain themselves by making friends with passing pedestrians. Some people were annoyed, but I thought the dogs were very polite about it...
I had exactly one goal on my final day in Barcelona before returning to Cologne this afternoon... touch the waters of the Mediterranean. I needed it to add to my "collection" of major bodies of waters that I've put my hands on.
It was a lot colder than I thought it would be, even for a dreary day in February.
After getting sand in my boots and frozen fingers, I took a walk up to the lobby of the world-famous Hotel Arts. I would have really liked to have stayed there, but it costs something like a billion dollars a night, so perhaps next time.
And now I bid Spain adieu...
Just when you think you've done every meme in existence... here's another. Only for you Chris! (Though, there is a clue to the Movie Quotable of the Day if you feel like reading on). I don't know if I've done this one before or not so, even if I have, the answers are probably different since I can't recall any of it!
Oh you just know the day is going to be crap when you get off to a really bad start. But first, a short tale as to how I came to be where I am now...
Because I knew I was going to be in Cologne for only six hours, I decided to book a hotel near the airport that had shuttle service. I didn't really mind how much of a dump it was, the only thing I cared about was that it had a shuttle bus. So, when I saw this "Quality Inn: Cologne Airport Hotel" among my choices at Expedia.com...
... that's all I needed to know, and I booked a room.
Except that the hotel is nowhere near the airport and does not provide complimentary shuttle service ("we don't have bus... call taxi"). The fact that I had to pay 20 Euro for a taxi to get there nearly caused me to explode with rage. Infuriated that Expedia could provide such blatantly false information, I fired off an email to customer service and got this as a reply:
Well how lovely is that? So If I list my apartment as a five-star resort complete with swimming pool, spa, beach club, and gourmet restaurant, does that mean I can rent out the hide-a-bed in my sofa as a hotel room on Expedia (even though the closest thing I have to a swimming pool is my bathtub?). I find it reprehensible that Expedia disavows all responsibility in their listings, and will start dealing with hotels directly from now on.
The really shitty part of the deal is this: for that kind of taxi fare I could have been staying in the actual city instead of in the middle of nowhere. It's really too bad, because I would have much rather eaten dinner at the Hard Rock instead of the mini mart at the Shell gas station across the street.
Anyway, In order to get to the airport on time, I have to wake up at 4:00am so I can get a taxi and be there by 5:00am (another 20 Euro down the toilet). I woke up shortly before then, chugged a Red Bull to get me moving, then started packing my things. It was then that I looked at my wristwatch and saw that it was not 4:00am... it was 2:00am. The clock in the television was wrong.
Good thing I drank that Red Bull.
After watching German television for two hours on a Red Bull buzz (or rather, American television dubbed with German translation), I'm off to the airport.
And now I am back home. Unfortunately, it was not without incident. The latch on my PowerBook somehow broke when it was run through the security checkpoint in Minneapolis. I have no idea how much it's going to cost to fix but, since I've been wanting a new laptop, perhaps this is yet another sign.
And it only goes downhill from there. When I left a week ago, the mountain passes were bare. Last night a winter storm had hit as I was driving back, making a huge snowy mess that caused the usual 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive to take just under 4 hours. Since it had rained earlier in the day, the snow was falling on ice, meaning that the roads were extraordinarily slick... cars were flung off the road left and right, and cops were everywhere trying to help out. At least twice some dumbass would blow past me at reckless speeds, only to end up in an accident down the road. Idiots. I didn't even bother to stop, because 1) nothing looked serious... just morons stuck in a ditch, 2) it's their own stupid fault that they think 4-wheel drive makes them immune to icy roads, 3) I don't have a winch, so all I could do is laugh at them for being so stupidly careless, and 4) there were so many snowplows and cops out that they can deal with it, because that's what they are paid for.
I just don't get it. The roads are truly perilous. The snow is falling so hard that you can barely see two car-lengths ahead. You can't use high-beam lights to see where you're going because the falling snow just reflects them back in your face. And cars are being tossed all over the road, meaning you may have to stop at a moment's notice. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DRIVE AT RECKLESS SPEEDS?!? Seriously, I never drove over 35 miles per hour and barely made it home in one piece, especially considering my nerves were shot having to stare at this for four hours...
That's a car coming the opposite direction that's run off the road and appears to be hung up on a guard rail there on the left.
The night was finally made complete when I got home and noticed that the TSA had also busted the zipper pull on my suitcase. That's sucks ass because it's less than a year old! Sure I had a lock on it, but it was a TSA-approved lock!! Oh well, I guess if I can't repair it, I'll be buying a new suitcase in addition to a new PowerBook.
The one bright spot in the entire 19-hour ordeal of taxis, flights, layovers, and driving was a book I found at Amsterdam Schipol International Airport, called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson...
I've never heard of the author before, but apparently he is well-known in the U.K. (where he lives now, though he was born in the US). He has a witty and engaging way of writing about him that I haven't seen in a long time... almost Douglas Adams-esque in a way.
Anyway, this wholly remarkable book tells the history of the universe and the scientific discoveries that have led us to understanding everything from the Big Bang and the formation of the earth, all the way up to atoms, molecules, cells, and the evolution of life itself. All presented in a relatively approachable manner that makes it tangible and understandable. I think even Creationists can appreciate the book from a historical perspective, as the stories of how things were discovered (whether you believe in them or not) are almost as compelling as the discoveries themselves. Very sweet. Now I'm going to order up some of his other books at the library.
When I was younger, I was afflicted with migraine headaches of crippling magnitudes. The worst part was never the actual mind-splitting headache, but instead the butt-numbing demerol shots I would have to take when the pain got to be too much. The shots had nauseating side-effects that could last for a week or more. So it was always a toss-up as to whether I choose the nausea from pain or worse nausea from medication. Usually I would just ride it out.
But then I became a vegetarian, started meditating, and migraines became a thing of the past. Or maybe I just outgrew them... I don't really know. Now it is a rare event indeed when I am stricken, and I consider myself very fortunate that I get a 2-3 year reprieve between episodes. They are usually triggered by a physical event, like throwing my back out or getting food poisoning.
Well, on the flight back from Europe, I must have slept wrong on my neck and it ended up all jacked-up. The migraine followed while driving home in crap weather and concentrating on finding the road for four hours. It's now two days later, and it's still with me. So now the debate rages on... go get the shot in the ass and be throwing up the rest of the week... or hope it goes away in the next day or two. In any event, the longer I wait, the longer I have to feel like this every minute of the day and night:
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
If you've read my "100 Things About Me" page, you will know that I am not a big believer in astrology or any of that crap (see item #4). But I will admit that I find the Chinese Zodiac to be eerily accurate in describing my personality and whatnot. Since Girl On A Glide has asked "what's your sign?" - I though I might as well put it out there and let people draw their own conclusions.
As it turns out, I am a Fire Horse. From what I've read, this is a pretty good sign if you are a guy, but a very bad sign if you happen to be a woman. In Asia, girls born as Fire Horses are considered unlucky to the family who bore her, and catastrophic to any man who is unfortunate enough to fall in love with her (as her sign is thought to be an overly-assertive troublemaker). This is odd, because those are exactly the traits I seem to attract in a woman. You can read all about that in this extended entry if you should so choose...
Perhaps it's the splitting migraines that have been plaguing me all week, but I am in a terrible mood. Nothing seems to be making me happy. In the hopes that I can alleviate my frustrations, I'm venting things that suck today. Lucky you.
Alias: What in the heck was last night's Alias supposed to be? I don't know. But I will tell you what it actually was: STUPID! I was so happy that the show seemed to be back on track, but now we've got hallucinations, vampires, and rampant idiocy going on at mind-numbing levels. If this is what we have to look forward to for the rest of the season, I wish somebody would let me know so that I can stop watching right now. This has got to be the worst episode of Alias yet, scraping the bottom of the barrel with the rest of the crap that's on television.
Podcasting: Whatever. I suppose when something comes out in a podcast that I actually want to listen to... then I'll start getting excited about it. But, after trying dozens of different "shows," I am less than impressed. When Stern starts a podcast, somebody let me know. I wish Robin Williams would do a weekly podcast, that would rule: comedy podcasts for when you need a dose of funny.
American Dad: We waited all this time so that Seth MacFarlane could create American Dad, a grossly inferior copy of his brilliant Family Guy show? What a complete and total waste of time. Stewie has been replaced by a fish and Brian has been replaced by an alien, but it's basically the same show... only not funny. Thank heavens that the original Family Guy is coming back in May.
Service Pack: I don't use my Windows PC unless forced, which means that it's never much kept up to date with the latest round of bug patches and useless security fixes. This morning I fired it up to find out I had Windows XP Service Pack 2 awaiting (and probably many others, but it's hard to tell). I noticed that Internet Explorer is finally getting a pop-up blocker, so I figure that alone is worth the hassle of downloading SP2. Anyway, my Windows PC is now officially dead. Since I'd rather shoot myself in the head than go through another WinXP install, I've decided to just leave it that way. Microsoft bastards. And here I was actually considering the purchase of a Tablet PC... what was I thinking? Look, it's a version of Windows that sucks just as bad as regular Windows, but you can use a pen instead of a mouse!
iPhoto: And to show I'm not 100% biased here, I offer the following: Given that I am a certified Apple whore, do you know how hard it is for me to find something to criticize about Apple software? Well iPhoto 5 makes it easy, because it's a steaming pile of crap. It's worse than crap. In fact, you usually have to search through Windows 98 shareware collections to find something with this magnitude of suckage. Slow to the point of being absolutely unusable, I have to wonder if anybody at Apple even bothered to test this ass-sucking turd of a program on anything other than a Dual-G5 machine. Apparently they didn't bother to test it at all, considering that many people lost their photos in the upgrade from version 4. Did Apple get bought out by Microsoft while I wasn't looking?
Wonderfalls: I finally finished watching all thirteen glorious episodes of Wonderfalls on DVD and have to wonder... how could this remarkable show be canceled so FOX could have room for shit like Trading Spouses in their schedule? As if that wasn't enough, the inferior "girl talks to God" show Joan of Arcadia is still running. While I used to actually like Joan, she has turned into a whiny bitch that's so boring in the latest round of shows that I've stopped watching it entirely.
Boca Burger: When I became a vegetarian, I was ever-so-grateful when "Boca Burgers" came along, because I could then enjoy the most deliciously fantastic hamburgers... all mad-cow free! But in the past year, they've re-formulated the recipe, and now they taste like ass. Wet ass. I don't know what in the heck they are thinking, but now their burger patties are slimy, soggy, and horrible in every way. Where I once was eating them by the box-fulls, now I can't even stand to look at them. I guess when the company was bought out by the cancer cartel of Philip Morris tobacco (under their "Kraft Foods" umbrella) they decided they didn't want people to actually buy the product anymore, and made it taste and "feel" like shit to get these results. Well congratulations, as if supporting big tobacco wasn't enough of a reason to stop buying them, now you've given me a reason I can't ignore.
Seattle: WHY DOESN'T SEATTLE HAVE A HARD ROCK CAFE YET?!? I mean, come on... Latvia is getting a cafe for heaven's sake! LATVIA! And, while we're at it, whatever happened to the cafes that were supposed to open up in Oslo and Frankfurt? Lastly, it also sucks that the "Hard Rock Beach Club" experiment has closed in Choctaw. UPDATE: It has just been brought to my attention that the cafe in Queenstown, New Zealand has also closed... which is horrible, because I hadn't made it to that one yet!
Station: It seems as though you can't just sit down and watch television anymore. Oh no, first there was station identification "badges" in the corner, now we've got pop-up ads, news tickers, and loads of other obnoxious crap to distract you while trying to watch your favorite show. I weep for the future. How much longer until our television screens are cluttered with so much shit that you can't even watch the actual show?
Trackback: If things keep going as badly as they are now, I will soon be joining the multitudes that are disabling trackbacks on their blogs (like Antipixel and Wirefarm). I loathe waking up in the morning to find 70 emails notifying my of trackback spams... all of which must be deleted and blacklisted. When is it going to be legal to hunt down and slaughter these low-life, bottom-feeding, bug-f#@%ers like the ass-biting dicks they are? They've taken a wonderful feature of the blogosphere and destroyed it utterly.
Lahti: I finally gave in to peer pressure and started having TiVo record Jack & Bobby, which is the story of a young boy "Bobby" who is destined to one day be president, and his growing up with brother "Jack" under the femi-nazi domination of their bitch-from-hell mother "Grace." It's a fascinating concept with good writing and interesting twists... all destroyed by Christina Lahti's completely unlikable portrayal of "Grace." She has -zero- redeeming qualities, and I find it mind-boggling that such a heinous character was ever green-lighted for television. Just like CSI: Miami which I cannot force myself to watch because of David Caruso's arrogantly laughable William Peterson impersination, I'm afraid that Jack & Bobby ain't making my list of must-see shows so long as Lahti is so horribly featured on it.
Hate: I can't help but wonder if these so-called devout Christians who email me the most hateful emails I've ever received understand what the word "hypocrisy" means. I must be on some kind of watch-list since the clown thing, because every single time I speak my mind on such things as gay marriage and other "controversial" topics, I am bound to get at least one raving email (can't you people leave comments?). In my previous post where I recommend a book by Bill Bryson where he discusses the "science of everything" (including evolution) I received an email telling me I was a "shill for Godlessness" and then was consigned to hell... again! I usually don't dignify such things with a response, but I am feeling especially frisky today, so here it is: f#@% you. And I'll also offer a helpful hint: if reading my blog makes you so upset, STOP READING IT YOU DUMBASS! I have never, ever, been anything but supportive and accepting to people's belief structure, and don't think it's out of line to ask the same courtesy from others. Go read somebody else's blog that won't bring about such hatred because, let's face it, there's enough of that in the world just now and I don't want to hear it.
What's a sound that makes you happy? My motorcycle. Any motorcycle, really. Makes you sad? A wounded animal.
What's a sound that makes you angry? The alert sound on a Windows PC. When I'm at an airport trying to read a book while on a layover, and some Windows-using idiot has the volume on their laptop full blast, and then you hear that stupid "plink" "plink" sound I just want to get up and smash the damn thing. Ditto for the Windows start-up sound. Makes you calm? Thunder and rain. I love the sound of a summer storm.
What's a sound that makes you hungry? Elizabeth Hurley or popcorn popping (even though I don't eat much popcorn). I'd probably lose control of all my bodily functions if Elizabeth Hurley were to read me poetry while heating up some Jiffy Pop. Makes you lose your appetite? It's a toss-up between Judge Judy and those sounds on an episode of CSI where they've got a bullet tearing through tissue or something like that. Ugh.
FQ AUDIBLE: What sounds are you hearing right now? The television, a neighbor's car, the refrigerator, and a train rumbling in the distance.
Take a listen at the FridayQ.
When it comes to Blogography (which is this blog, in case you hadn't noticed), I am only peripherally aware that quite a lot of people read it. Granted "quite a lot" is all relative because, compared to the number of hits Google gets, I might as well not even exist. But considering I initially started this up for an audience of 4 people, it's nothing less than amazing that thousands - tens of thousands - people drop by every week.
Of course, not all of these "unique visitor counts" can truly be counted as "readers," but the end result is still scary. Once I strip out all the robots, spammers, search hits, and people looking for nude photos of Jennifer Garner, a mind-boggling 1600 people a day visit Blogography's entry page. It may be more than that because I don't know how to count RSS readers, blog aggregators, and direct links, but that's still a lot of people. And y'all keep coming...
I've long ago given up trying to figure out why my life is interesting enough to merit such attention. Other than an occasional trip to interesting (and not-so interesting) locations, I lead an exceedingly boring life that consists of work, watching television, riding my motorcycle, surfing the web, and complaining a lot. But what do I know, I am addicted to blogs for far less reasons than that.
Anyway, this morning I received an odd email congratulating me for having a high Google Rank, and then went on to tell me of an "opportunity too good to pass up" (but aren't they all?). This came as quite a surprise to me because last time I checked I was at Google Rank 4, which I didn't think was anything special. Since the Google Toolbar isn't available for Macintosh, Rank is something I don't know how to monitor.
Apparently, this spammer gentleman wanted to sell me an "insider's guide" to making money with blogs, and provided a sneak peek at some of the "profit driven tips" that would make me a gazillionaire. Most of them were exceedingly stupid, but one of these money-making essentials caught my eye... the one which advised me to eliminate my RSS feed, or release only my entry headers to an RSS feed. The idea being that people would then be forced to visit the site (thus the advertising I'm supposed to put there) if they wanted to read my blog. I found this amusing because, without RSS, I would probably read only a third of the blogs I do now.
And there's the whole enchilada... I provide full content of my posts to my RSS feed so that people using Bloglines or some kind of RSS reading app have an easy way to keep reading Blogography (only rarely do I make an extended entry, and even then it has to be a topic that I feel most people won't be interested in). Sure it's not as pretty as my site, but the importance should be the content over the design anyway, shouldn't it? I dunno. It's not that I am opposed to making money, but that's not why I blog. Besides, is anybody out there making big money with Google AdSense anyway? Maybe it's something I should look into, because a lot of people do it and I can only assume they wouldn't bother unless they got paid.
Back to Google Rank: through some cursory research I've found a little bit more about it. First of all, I only have a Rank of 5 which, while respectable (bloggers like James, Tonya, and Richard are at 5 also), is not considered to be a high Rank. Second of all, Rank is exponential... meaning that it's always more and more difficult to reach that next highest level. Going from 4 to 5 is much easier than going from 5 to 6 for example. So to reach a Rank of 6 (like more relevant bloggers than I, such as Neil and Mark) would require drastically more links pointing to me by some sites with heavy Rank themselves and, let's face it, Blogography is just not that kind of blog.
Besides, my findings show me that Google Rank is in no way indicative of how good a blog actually is. Such finds as Down With Pants and My So-Called Strife have a Rank of 3 (criminal!), but easily hold their own with blogs that are at 7 (sorry but I just don't "get" blogs like Scobleizer and Pirillo, but an awfully lot of people must with a Google Rank of 7!).
Everything else aside, this is entry #771, meaning I've got 229 to go before I've fulfilled the promise I made to myself when I started this, my 3rd blog. If I keep at my average of 1.2 entries per day, that means #1000 will happen sometime in August. I always thought that I would give it up at that point and move on to something different, but blogging sure has been good to me over the years, and I don't know that I can let it go so easily. I guess I'll know in 6 short months.
And, if I haven't said it lately, thanks for stopping by.
Usually when I like a television show I start counting the minutes until it's cancelled. I'm pessimistic that way. So when they cancel Cupid or Sports Night or Oh Grow Up! or Wonderfalls or any of the dozens of other shows that make for good television, I accept it the best I can and move on. There are surprises, of course (Alias and Lost come immediately to mind), but most of the time the ever convenient "low ratings" excuse makes it all too easy for short-sighted, dumbass television execs to shaft loyal viewers.
The thing that gets me is that the world of television has changed. Syndication can bring old series to life in new markets and provide a financial windfall. Releasing shows on DVD is easy money. Internet distribution is just around the corner. Who knows what new financial outlets will present themselves in the future? It's not just about the ratings anymore. And because of that, "viewer campaigns" to save shows which have customarily have -zero- effect on the minds of the networks, may actually start to be carrying some weight.
Cult favorites like Wonderfalls and Miracles that were ratings failures are getting DVD releases because of consumer demand. Shows like The Family Guy are being resurrected because of runaway DVD sales. Suddenly there's hope for the impossible.
And that's why a group of television addicts over at Television Without Pity are trying to create a preemptive strike in saving a show that hasn't even been cancelled yet. Like me, they are pessimistic about the chances of Veronica Mars getting picked up for a second season (heck, it's a miracle it hasn't been cancelled already)...
And here's the deal (thanks to wyk95 for the tip)...
Inspired by Veronica's clever ploy of writing "Veronica Mars is smarter than me" on the bills in Clash of the Tritons, a few fans thought it would be fun to design a Veronica Mars themed two dollar bill to ask for a second season. Just click here to download the custom $2 bill, print it out, then write "Veronica Mars is smarter than me" on the bills and send them to UPN (you might also include your gender, general age range, and location to show UPN that the show has a very diverse fan base). You can read more about this campaign at the TWoP boards And here's the addresses for the top UPN executives and the UPN affiliates.
Since I'm a big fan of Veronica Mars, I'll be sending mine, hoping we can contribute even a little bit to save a brilliant show from premature cancellation. Or maybe not. But it certainly can't hurt.
For the first time in a week, my migraines seem to be subsiding. I was going to go get a shot Friday after work so that I could have the weekend to recover from the nausea... but ultimately ended up deciding to spend the weekend in bed to see if I can get my head to stop exploding. Now it's just a kind of dull ache behind my eyeballs, and will hopefully have dissipated by tomorrow morning.
Assuming the geese don't attack.
This morning I was awoken by some geese honking all over the place. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to take out the garbage so I could see what a flock of geese looks like all up-close and personal-like. That was a mistake. These were some angry geese, and decided to attack me. Well, not really attack, but they did come honking my way... as if possessed by a rage from some long-forgotten evil. I am proud to say that I did not drop the trash and run screaming like a little girl. Instead I stood frozen and screamed like a big girl ("AAAAAAAAHHHHH!") which is my own personal brand of evil-repellent. After that, they honked off not to return. Yet. The horror. I live in constant fear of them coming back for me.
My migraine forgotten for the moment, I decided to catch up on the blogosphere and find some nice things to say here for a change...
Jerz: My first stop at Mr. Jerz was instantly rewarded by giving me all kinds of new profanity for my blogging rants and, if that were not enough, also provides a way of creating new ones of my own! Somebody needs to turn this brilliance into a Flash-based profanity-maker...
Hmmm... let's try this out, shall we?
Napshitter: Scott Andrew (whose music you really should take a listen to) has noticed that Napster has a lame full page dedicated to taking pot-shots at Apple's iPod and iTunes. And now they're putting them on television as well. To which I can only say to Napster: bitch, please. The iPod is the overwhelming choice for the discerning digital music listener, and your shit isn't even compatible with it. Furthermore, your taint-spank (thank you Mr. Jerz!) claim of being able to fill up some sack-smoking (thanks again!) Windows MP3 player that isn't anything close to being as nifty as my iPod for just $15 is grossly misleading. Sure you can do it... but after 30 days, you're boned, because all that music disappears unless you pay another bitch-licking (Jerz!) $15 for another 30 days. Just close up you testicle-slapping (whoo!) excuse for a music service and stop wasting our time.
Oh my. And here I was going to say nice things for a change. I blame Mr. Jerz.
Hurley: There was good news to be found when I drop by e-Dennis and see there's a rumor running around which has Elizabeth Hurley being attached to the next Harry Potter movie. If anything can save that franchise for me, this would be it. You can read a few of the many unabashed Hurley-lust entries I've made over the hottest woman in the known universe here and here and here.
Still: Neil has crafted a nice message for the MPAA after they closed down LokiTorrent (a BitTorrent hub). Even better, Boing Boing has picked it up! Sweet. I am a big fan of BitTorrent because it allows me to download television to take on the road with me, and easily archive shows that I can't be sure will ever be released on DVD (I'd do all this on my TiVo, but we all know how that's turning out). I find absolutely nothing wrong with my doing this. I pay DirecTV obscene amounts of money every month to watch those shows, and always buy the DVDs for shows I want to keep. If television networks had half-a-brain, they'd allow you to buy the shows over the internet in the first place.
Final: James has noted that Star Trek: Enterprise has entered the final frontier and been cancelled after this season. How can anybody be surprised. NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON THAT SHOW! It's just one boring episode after another. When is a kick-ass Star Trek show going to come along? Somebody should hire Ron Moore and the Battlestar Galactica team to take care of it.
Toby: And why couldn't I think of this? Of course, being a vegetarian, my credibility in such a threat would be quite low.
Pee: Just a few days ago I was thinking I might be able to drive up my blog traffic by getting some kind of high-profile endorsement. And now fate steps in. Heaven only knows nothing would make me happier than "spreading love all over the blogosphere," but some endorsements are just inviting trouble. I get enough wacky hate mail as it is, so perhaps being mired in obscurity it not such a bad thing.
Summer: The quirks of seasonal inversion between the north and south hemispheres of our planet is a nice side-effect of an international blogosphere. CoffeeWaffle is eating summer berries off the vine in New Zealand, and Kazza is spending time in the swimming pool in Australia. Naturally, I'm jealous. Summer means being able to ride my motorcycle. Of course, given the weak winter we've been having here, they should be cleaning the streets of loose gravel any day now. THERE... now that makes me happy.
Love, as it has been said, is a disease that people are happy to contract. And like a disease, love can have a very bad outcome indeed... including a broken heart, insanity, bankruptcy, death, and even an opening for contracting other diseases. Fortunately, I have a built-in immunity which has been carefully acquired over the years. By ingesting several small doses (and one very, very large dose) of failed attempts at love over a very long period of time, I've got a clean bill of health. Outside of my family and friends, I'm certified love-free (but I don't think that's going to make any difference on my life insurance rates).
That's not to say I haven't had moments where I've felt my immunity weakening, that's part of life. In fact, at some points I find that immunity can even be bolstered by allowing yourself a temporary "love fix" for short durations... let's say 20 minutes to two hours in length (any longer and, like morphine addiction, you may not want to escape it).
Mind you, I am not advocating the love-free lifestyle, I'm just saying that it has somehow come to suit me. Especially when it means I can avoid scenarios like this (hmmm... in reviewing last year's entry, I'd have to say I'm slightly less bitter this year). Besides, tomorrow a woman with superb ironing skills could come along and change my mind of the subject entirely.
Anyway, nothing could possibly eclipse my love for you, dear reader...
Hope your Valentine's Day is a happy one!
Yet another excellent cameo appearance on Boston Legal last night by the incomparable Betty White! Of course, it doesn't hurt that David E. Kelley is writing the most delicious dialogue for her character, Catherine Piper... a cantankerous old bitch who became Alan Shore's secretary when he couldn't keep from sexually harassing the babes that held the position previously.
I'm just amazed that Betty continues to be this brilliant, even at 83 years old...
Catherine Piper: Alan! Wonderful news! The Kerwin deposition has been cancelled, you don't have to go. Your morning is now free. Which works out, because it seems these two police officers are here to arrest you.
Police Officer: You Alan Shore?
Catherine Piper: My aren't you clever! I bet you make detective one day! Was my calling him 'Alan' a clue?
And all delivered with perfect comedic timing that's classic Betty White! I can only hope that she continues making weekly appearances on the show. It helps compensate for the amateurish and jerky "push-in" camera moves that the directors for Boston Legal seem to think create compelling television (though nothing is quite so bad as the shaky hand-held camera work on the show Medium, which I'm guessing they think is artistic and edgy, but in reality just gives me a headache to watch).
Total amount of music files on your computer? According to iTunes, I am currently at 4628 songs. And I'm pretty sure all of them are legal except one: Tarzan Boy, by Baltimora. It's not available digitally at the iTunes Music Store, and I can't find the CD Living in the Background to purchase the song because it's out of print. Since Steve Jobs has stated that he would gladly offer every song ever released on the iTMS, I can only guess that it's the record labels that are the hold-up. Illegal downloading was my only option.
The last CD you bought was... Well, I don't really buy CD's anymore, I purchase all my music from iTunes Music Store so I don't have a piece of plastic to throw out. The last albums I bought from iTMS would be Green Day's excellent American Idiot, and Nightbird by Erasure. Too many terrific 80's synth-pop melodies on that one! I Broke it All in Two and Breathe are absolutely beautiful songs...
What was the last song you listened to before reading this message? Hmmm... last night before I went to bed I was listening to my iPod Shuffle while reading. I think the song would be Closer by Nine Inch Nails.
Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you. All my music means a lot to me. It is so very hard to narrow down thousands of favorites to just five... I wouldn't even know where to begin. Since Valentine's Day has just passed, let's talk about love: Don't Answer Me by the Alan Parson's Project (a concert I went to with my best friend who has since departed this mortal plane). Every Breath You Take by The Police (17 years old in a New Orlean's hotel). If You Were Here by the Thompson Twins (first love). Barrel of a Gun by Depeche Mode (love gone very wrong). And Rebel Yell by Billy Idol (the words pretty much speak for themselves).
What 3 people are you going to pass this baton to and why? Gee, there was a "Music Shuffle Meme" not so long ago that gave me an idea of what people are listening to, so I should probably try to find some people who I don't think answered it? I'll pick Ben's Blab, because he recently had an entry about a music playlist but failed to indicate any of the songs or what music he likes. Geekable, because Jeff has incredible taste in music (though I don't think that he "does" memes... a pity). And My So-Called Strife (Kirkkitsch is forever recommending movies, but I have no idea what music he listens to... though I don't think he "does" memes either).
Is that it? Okay then.
I had lost some papers and, in looking for them, came across the very cool Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes giant "Collector's Edition" comic book that I had purchased at a yard sale years ago. Figuring that my important papers were actually not-so important after all, I took a few minutes to read this huge spectacle of an adventure.
To sum up the story... the evil sorcerer Mordru escaped imprisonment and opened up a can of whoop-ass on the entire Legion of Super-Heroes. Only Superboy, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Duo-Damsel managed to escape his wrath by time-traveling to the past. They eventually got lucky when Mordru's rage caused him to imprison himself in a landslide. When they return to the future, they found out that Princess Projectra, Dreamy, and the White Witch had fooled Mordru into thinking he had kicked their asses, when he really didn't...
You tell 'em Mon-El! Silly girls!!
Not exactly the most gracious of compliments but hey, the story was written in 1975. Women have come a long way in the last thirty years. Or have they? I was curious to imagine what the story would have been like had it been written a decade later in 1985. After all, this is when the Eurythmics had released the women's movement anthem "Sister Are Doin' It For Themselves"...
I've always wondered how my life would change if I had a billion dollars. Knowing me, I'd probably start buying out companies that compete with my interests and then threaten foreign governments just because I could. I mean, hey, after all I've got a BILLION dollars in the bank! People with that kind of money should be able to do whatever they want, right? Who cares if that makes me look like a three-year-old with an ego the size of Montana.
Oh, wait a second, it appears that Bill Gates has beat me to the punch.
It would seem that he purchased a software company in Denmark, and is now extorting the Danish government to vote for the EU software patent bullshit... or else he'll close the company and fire all 800 employees (read the entire scary story over at Groklaw). What a monkey-spanking pig-f#@%er.
I wonder if it's possible for me to never, ever use another Microsoft product for the rest of my life? The bugs, security breaches, vaporware, delays, and multitude of other sins all pale in comparison to extorting a government. Not just any government... DENMARK! A friendly government. As if the USA didn't already have enough problems? I want so badly to believe that this story is not true. But, given Gate's history, that's probably just a pipe-dream.
And I thought Apple's legal crack-down on rumor sites was bad, sheesh. Bill Gates must have a dick the size of a mosquito.
UPDATE: Now Boing Boing has it.
UPDATE: And now Boing Boing is reporting that Microsoft denies it will be closing the company. They do not, however, deny that Bill Gates made the threat (so who knows?). In any event, Microsoft Windows still sucks ass.
A while back I had blogged about my first experience eating a Frosty from Wendy's (documented in excruciating, yet amusing, detail here). I then received two comments and an email telling me that I really haven't experienced a Frosty properly until I've dipped french fries into it. And so, bizarre as it sounds, I decided to give it a try on my way out of Wenatchee this afternoon.
As it turns out, dipping french fries into a Frosty is yummy good once you get over how bizarre it feels to be eating cold-hot-salty-sweet all at the same time. Overall, I recommend it heartily. There is one problem, however. Size differential.
I ordered a medium-sized Frosty and a Biggie Fries... and ended up running out of fries long before my Frosty was gone. That left me with lots of Frosty and no fries to dip in it. Bummer. I suppose next time I could order a "Great Biggie Fries" and see if that's enough to make it through. But then there's another dilemma... what happens when the Frosty is so far down in the cup that you can't reach it with a french fry?
I'm guessing it will take some experimentation to find the proper ratio of Frosty to fries. My gut instinct is that it will end up being Biggie Fries and small-sized Frosty. Don't worry, I'll be sure to keep you posted.
As typical with me, actually getting my Frosty and fries was not as simple as it might sound. When I got to Wendy's, there was a line of four cars to get through the drive-through. I figured it would be faster if I just run inside.
I figured wrong. Time for anonymous letter number two...
Adding a more "world-centric" friendliness to the FridayQ, I'm going to start uploading it to the site Thursday mornings so that those across the International Date Line can access it when it's actually Friday for them (if they so choose).
The FridayQ is interesting to me, because it's a distraction of a wholly personal nature. I made it for me because I missed the Friday Five. It's not meant to be inspiring or have any deep meaning... it's just a quick way to fill up a Friday if you can't think of anything else to write about, (all while revealing a little bit of yourself to your readers that you might not ordinarily get around to mentioning).
For instance, last week a friend was asking me about my recent trip to Europe. After talking about it for a few minutes, he mentioned that he had never been more than a 6-hour drive from the place he was born. This was quite a revelation to me. I'd known him for years, and had no idea. That got me to wondering how many other people never feel the need to venture far from their birthplace.
Thus tomorrow's entry "DISTANCE" was born.
And all the ideas for questions seem to start like that. Something comes up that gets me curious and, viola, it's a FridayQ. What happens then is up to the people who decide to post an entry to their blogs. Some bloggers use the questions as a springboard to write paragraphs of revelations or get something off their chests. Others answer with a single word (sometimes raising more questions than they answer!). Still others use it as a way to test their imaginations with unlikely tales and humorous anecdotes. There is no right way to answer, and it can mean whatever people want it to mean.
And that's all good because it lets me learn a little bit about the bloggers who participate. But mostly because it was never meant to be anything more than a mindless distraction that bloggers can use when they feel like it (or never at all). I just wonder how many questions I've got left in me!
I quite honestly do not know how to react to the rampant stupidity going on with businesses world today. Business execs close their eyes to problems, don't serve their customers and then, when trouble starts eating away at profits, turn around and blame their customers for their woes! It's as if I were to stop writing in my blog, then turn around and blame my readers for not visiting my web site and instead reading somebody else's blog. Well, duh!
Reuters has a revealing article about television downloading entitled: '24' Makes Britain a Hotbed for Illicit TV Downloads. It basically goes on to report that TV fans in the UK are tired of waiting months for their favorite television programs to be aired in their corner of the world, so they are instead turning to the internet to get what they want. Well, duh! And it works both ways... Battlestar Galactica aired in Britain months before it did here, and I didn't want to wait for it either. BitTorrent here I come.
Since television network executives are so blatantly clueless, allow me to spell out reality for your incompetent asses...
I am the first to admit that this is not a simple scenario, and don't claim to have all the answers for the problems you will face as you transition to the internet age. But here are some things to consider...
The thing that really gets me ranting is that television networks actually expect people to feel sorry for them! How am I supposed to feel sorry for somebody who is too stupid to keep in touch with customers and their market trends so they can stay in business? Networks are bloated with so much hypocrisy that NOBODY is going to shed a tear when they fade into irrelevance (we've been dying for that to happen with music labels for decades!). Liberation of video media is at hand and you can either accept it, service your customers, and give people what they want... or close up shop and let somebody else do it. Yes, I know it's hard, but nothing in business is ever easy. Just like life.
And now I'm off to Tennessee... I'll be sure to say hello to Elvis for you.
And with that, Dave has left the building.
What's the furthest North you've been on this world? What were you doing there? The furthest North I've been is Reykjavik, Iceland (64-degrees North latitude), where I was on layover to see the Hard Rock Cafe there while on my way to Sweden to visit friends and visit another Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm. It is closely followed by Anchorage, Alaska (61-degrees North latitude), where I was changing planes on the way back from a business trip to Seoul, Korea.
What's the furthest South you've been on this world? What were you doing there? The furthest South I've been is Bali, Indonesia (6-degrees South) where I went to the Hard Rock Resort and Beach Club for vacation. A very cool place if you're looking to get away from it all, by the way!
Where were you born, and what's the furthest you've been from that spot? I was born in San Diego, California (USA) and the furthest I've been from there is Kuala Lumpur at 8883.5 miles / 14296.5 kilometers away. I was in the city during a layover from Singapore to Bali which was arranged so I could see the Hard Rock Cafe there.
FQ AWAY: Name a blog you read that's the most distant from you... whether it be emotionally, culturally, religiously, or by physical loacation. Gee, many blogs I read specifically because they are so distant from me! I suppose rather than just coming up with one of them, I'll run the gamut here. Emotionally, I'd have to say Tonya's Adventure Journalist is furthest from mine... mostly because of her photography, which always strikes an emotional chord with me (different from mine here, which only gets emotional when I rant). Culturally, I'd have to say Healing Iraq is the most distant, because my culture doesn't involve being in the middle of a war zone. Religiously, I'd have to say Shannon Blogs, because the way she applies her faith to daily living is just so over-the-top bizarre to me (albeit in a wholly interesting and captivating way which I respect her for immensely). As for physical location... out of blogs I read regularly that would probably be either Kazza in Sydney, Australia or CoffeeWaffle in Nelson, New Zealand.
Go the distance at the FridayQ.
Back when I was a casual traveler, I often thought that flying First Class would be a utopia of flowing champagne, in-flight manicures, world-class dining, and non-stop entertainment. But, as is so often the case, such a fantasy was not to be.
This is not to say it's not better at the front of the plane... the additional leg-room and extra space alone is worth flying First Class. And sure, there are other benefits, including better food, never-ending drinks, all-you-can-eat snacks, and more attentive service. But when it comes right down to it, First Class is not all it's cracked up to be. How can that be?
Because there is so little "class" in First Class.
And to explain this, I will have to dispel a common myth... the misconception that people in the First Class cabin pay for their First Class tickets. This is rarely the case. Most people sitting in those big, comfy seats did not pay the ridiculous "F" fare, but were instead upgraded to First Class. There are many, many ways to get upgraded, but the most common is because you are a good customer. You fly lots and lots of miles with an airline, and so they reward you with First Class upgrades and other perks to keep your business and keep you flying.
And because I fly quite a lot I am pretty much assured of getting upgraded on any domestic flight, and have learned some tricks as to which days and what times to fly that will almost guarantee it. For international flights, I can sometimes pick a fare that will allow me to use my "mileage" to upgrade, but usually upgradable fares are far outside of my budget. In any event, I've got a narrow ass that fits just fine in those tiny coach seats and can easily ignore the world around me, so getting upgraded is not something I obsess about. It's nice if it happens, but I'm not devastated when it doesn't.
But my "no-care attitude" is exceedingly rare among the frequent business traveller. I have seen passengers screaming at the gate agent because they can't get an upgrade. I have seen passengers actually re-book their flight if an upgrade didn't come through. In fifteen years of constant travel, I have seen it all: drunks, drugs, sex, fights, fire, yelling, screaming, singing, praying, crying, barfing, bleeding, evacuations, medical crises, emergency landings, prisoner transfers, and even a food fight. But all of that pales in comparison to a frequent flier not getting an upgrade. And the horror doesn't stop once they've gotten it.
Which brings me (finally) to my point. The most disappointing things that occur in-flight, always seem to happen to me while flying First Class, because there are just entirely too many assholes up there. Not everybody, of course, but there always seems to be one or two of them that just make me wish I could run to the back of the plane and hide out amongst the huddled masses in coach.
Today was such a day. This arrogant, obnoxious, disgusting pig of a passenger sat two rows ahead of me and was about as bad as it gets. No rules applied to him. HE got to bring extra luggage onboard (including a huge roller bag, a stuffed garment bag, and an enormous brief case). HE got to take up an ENTIRE OVERHEAD BIN with his shit. HE needed his Jack Daniels and Soda immediately. HE demanded they take his jacket ahead of everybody else. HE wanted to trade meals because the chicken was "unacceptable." HE can talk on his mobile phone during take-off and landing. HE could use his computer when electronic devices were no longer allowed... It was an entire flight of ludicrous demands and abusive demeanor that made me want to get up and stab him in the neck with my fork. If I had to sit next to the insufferable bastard, I'm sure I would have.
And all I can do is think back to those long-ago days where I would sit in my tiny coach seat, dreaming of a life of class and elegance behind that magical curtain at the front of the plane. Too bad reality had to come along and f#@% it all up.
I end up in Memphis quite a lot, but usually just to change planes. I haven't been to the city proper in almost five years. I can't think of a really good reason for that except to say that I'm don't have work in the area very often. But come Monday, I do indeed have some work to attend to, so here I am.
And since Monday is a work holiday for me ("President's Day"), I decided to trade it out for today so I could come in early and take a drive down to the Florida Panhandle. Or, more specifically, the city of Destin, where a new Hard Rock Cafe opened up a while back.
I am planning on leaving at 7:00 in the morning for the nine-hour drive down. But right now I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking about how my crappy airport hotel doesn't have a restaurant nearby, or even a vending machine available. I always like to go to bed a little bit hungry, but not starving. Something tells me this is going to be a long night.
MapQuest helpfully projected a nine-hour and three-minute drive from Memphis, Tennessee to Destin, Florida. As it ends up, I did it in just ender eight hours, and managed to pull in to the Hard Rock Cafe Destin at 3:16 for a late lunch. The cafe itself is scarily reminiscent of the cafe that used to be in Ft. Lauderdale... a crappy mall location with no history or interesting architecture. In the end, it does end up faring slightly better because Destin seems to be a relatively new resort development, but it's hardly an ideal location for a Hard Rock from a design perspective. Oh well, I hope Destin can hold out longer than its ill-fated twin in Ft. Lauderdale.
The interior is rather pedestrian, but does try to cram in a lot of memorabilia into the space available. I was a bit surprised to find the restaurant completely packed at such an odd hour, which I guess is a good thing considering it's the "slow season."
Like so many of these heavily-populated beach resort cities, Destin has been dramatically over-developed. The roads in and out of the area just can't handle the volume, meaning you have a non-stop traffic jam for an hour in and another hour out. I'd hate to think of how bad it gets during the height of summer vacation... perhaps that's why MapQuest adds an extra hour?
Anyway, not really a bad cafe, just nothing special.
When I woke up, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire day driving. Some vacation. But I was already committed to the trip, so it was off to the Hertz Rent-A-Car desk to pick up my ride. As usual, they decided to reward my "Gold Club" membership with a "car upgrade" from a nice compact Mazda to a massive Buick LeSabre. I know they think that they are being nice, but I HATE it when they do this! If I wanted a big-ass Buick, I would have ordered one! Not only am I uncomfortable in larger cars, I will be driving over a thousand miles, and would rather have a more fuel efficient model automobile. But I don't have time to argue with Hertz, so I pack up this gigantic beast of a car and take off. And check out that license plate, I'm a Texan now...
The drive to the Florida Panhandle was largely uneventful. Central Mississippi is pretty sparse along highway 55, with the exception of Jackson, so there's just not a lot to do along the way. There used to be the Hard Rock Beach Club out in Choctaw, but it has recently closed, leaving me with nothing but mile after mile of asphalt. About the hardest part of the entire drive through the state was at the very end when I had to make the decision to turn left and head to Mobile then onward to Destin... or turn right and head to New Orleans. Since New Orleans is one of my most favorite cities in the USA, you can understand my dilemma. But I had been to The Big Easy not so long ago, so Alabama it was.
But first I needed to stop for gas. I saw a billboard that said "EASY ACCESS" and "CLEAN RESTROOMS" with the "CLEAN" part underlined, so I figured that must be the place for me. Holy crap! If these were CLEAN restrooms, I shudder to think what a dirty restroom must look like...
Scary. I think I ran back to the car.
Now, unlike most times when you move from state to state without even realizing something has changed... entering Alabama is another matter entirely. The minute you cross the border, the majestic four-lane highway with a wide median in Mississippi instantly becomes a two-lane country road with no median at all. Suddenly there are Baptist churches popping up every five minutes. You start to see homemade billboards that say "JESUS IS LORD" and businesses with signs proclaiming "IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE, DON'T BOTHER STOPPING." Welcome to the deep, deep South.
Anyway, pretty soon I was in Mobile, then crossing into Florida, so I was making good time and all was well. After eating a late lunch at the Hard Rock and walking along a beach so white that it looked like snow instead of sand, I turned back toward Tennessee and made it as far as Birmingham (802 miles total)...
And tomorrow I am back to Tennessee for a trip into Gatlinburg to visit the only Hard Rock Cafe in the world with a wedding chapel attached, then onward to Nashville... a mere 518 miles, hah!
Gatlinburg, as it were, is a charming little town on the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains. The fact that it has turned into a tourist destination worthy of Disney-esque envy is beside the point. The traffic getting in and out of the area is murder. Three lanes of automobile hell guaranteed to drive you mad.
Even when DollyWood is closed for the season.
And that's a shame, because I would absolutely go! But anyway, once you finally reach Gatlinburg, you'll be treated to a cozy little Hard Rock that is one of my all-time favorites...
As you can see, I somehow angered the rain gods, because it was pouring the entire two hours I was in town. This is kind of a pity, because one of the reasons I wanted to return here was so I could get a better photo of the exterior (my previous trip was at night - which means that, until now, this was the only Hard Rock property I had not seen in daylight).
Oh well. My veggie burger and chocolate shake were excellent, so it was worth the seven hours out of my way to visit. At least, that's what I tell myself as I sit here in my big-ass Buick LeSabre rental car watching the rain fall so heavy on the windshield that I can't see out. It's going to be a fun 3-1/3 hour drive to Nashville!
Well that was lovely. What should have been a 3-1/2 hour drive over from Gatlinburg became a 4-1/2 hour trip because the flood of rain caused not one, but three accidents on the highway connecting me to the city. It's not really a surprise because the thick cloud cover made it dark, the fog made it difficult to see, and the rain obliterated whatever was left to look at on the road.
Fortunately, I drive using "the force" so I made it safe and sound (albeit much later than planned).
The Hard Rock Cafe Nashville is a gem of a restaurant that is my favorite kind of Hard Rock property: an ingenious re-work of a historic building. In this case, Nashville's first brothel. It is a long, thin building that made fitting everything inside a bit tricky, but they managed just fine. There's even a stage for live music. In addition to the cafe proper, there is an additional building which houses a merch shop on the corner of the parking lot. This is yet another historic structure: The Silver Dollar Saloon Building. Perfecting an already perfect cafe, they painted a giant Gibson Guitar on the wall of the building behind it, which complements the guitar-shaped bar on the inside.
The above photos will completely fail to impress upon you the massive length of the building, which is an entire block long. If you study the interior photo, you will see that it goes waaayyy back... and there's a teeny tiny little table and chair there that give it some scale.
And now understand that I took this photo at the half-way point of the building... THAT'S how long it is!
Anyway, after I had an Apple Cobbler for dessert, I walked around the area to see what was gong on. Despite it being a Sunday, there was quite a lot of activity on the streets and in the bars. I really, really, don't like country music... not even a little bit... so Nashville has always been a bit hard to take (hey, that's what the city is all about!). But despite it all, it's still an incredible place, and I never mind spending time here. Unfortunately, my work takes me back to Memphis in the morning, so that will have to wait until next time.
The drive up from Birmingham wasn't that bad until the rain started coming down... in a torrential flood. I know Seattle has a reputation for rain, but this was about as bad as I've ever seen it in either Seattle or Orlando. It made driving a bit difficult in spots (particularly when passing a truck), but I'm kind of used to the rain from my many drives over to Western Washington.
I've already mentioned how Nashville is an amazing city (even if you don't like country music), but here's the best part... they have one of my favorite hotels in the entire world: The Wyndham Union Station. If you've read my other travel notes, you already know that I have a fondness for unique, quirky, historical properties. This one is cream. What used to be Nashville's train station was turned into a stunning hotel in 1986...
"Beautiful" doesn't even begin to describe this majestic building, or even elude to the meticulous care they took in restoring it (the Tiffany stained glass ceiling could not have been easy). My room is right on the upper terrace, and is cavernous. I swear, it seems as though my ceiling is 20 feet tall! Right now, there was a wedding party below, and I am serenaded with really good music until bedtime, which is kind of a cool way to end the day.
You would think that this opulence would come at a high cost, but it doesn't. Because it's a half-mile from the downtown "scene," it is actually very reasonably priced (my internet rate was a measly $89!!). So if you ever end up in Nashville, there's really only one place to stay... the Wyndham Union Station, which I cannot recommend highly enough.
P.S. And, per request, here's a photo of the previously-mentioned Hard Rock Merch Shop, formerly known as the "Silver Dollar Salloon." Like the cafe behind it, the building is very narrow. If I remember correctly, the reason it got the name is because it was decorated with silver dollars pounded in the floor (or something like that).
Tennessee is blessed with three fantastic Hard Rock Cafe properties, tastefully distributed from one end of the state to the other. Memphis in particular is vintage Hard Rock. It's a classic dual-level design with massive amounts of memorabilia, perfectly positioned on historic Beale Street next to the arena.
It's well worth a visit if you happen to be in town...
And that's all she wrote for this trip.
Apparently, the rain gods were not done with me yet. In the morning I took a walk to get some photos and it was overcast but nothing serious. An hour later when I checked out of the Wyndham, it was pouring buckets once again. Fortunately, by the time I was an hour out, the skies cleared up.
Now that I've come full-circle, my odometer is telling me I put a total of 1558 miles in...
My work wasn't starting until 1:00, which gave me plenty of time to stop by Germantown on my way into the city. This suburb of Memphis is infamous for the Apple Store sign fiasco a while back. If you've ever visited an Apple Store, you know that the only signage is a giant glowing Apple logo. Well, that's a double strike-out, because 1)You can't use food items in Germantown signage, including an apple and 2)You cannot have any self-illuminating signs either. It was eventually all worked out, but the store opening was delayed an entire month while the debate raged on...
The reason I stopped was to see if I could get some kind of deal on a new PowerBook, but there was no deal to be had. That's kind of a shame, because I would have purchased one on the spot if they had only offered to pop in some extra RAM or something. I guess Apple being Apple doesn't feel the need to deal. Oh well, when I can managed to scrape some money together, I'll just order one online. I sure hope they've improved the durability of the latch in the newer models.
Work finished early, which means I was able to change my flight to go home tomorrow instead of Wednesday, which is kind of nice. One more extra day at home before I have to ship out again. With my reservations changed, it's off to the Hard Rock for an early dinner, then onward to the lobby of the Peabody to have a drink and visit the ducks...
The Peabody is yet another landmark historic hotel that I enjoy quite a lot. On top of that, there's ducks, of course. Legend has it that manager of the hotel had a drunken inspiration to release his live decoy ducks into the lobby fountain. That was in 1931, and there are still ducks there today. In fact, now it's a daily ritual where red carpet is rolled out and the ducks descend in their private elevator from their penthouse retreat every morning at 11:00am, then return via the red carpet treatment at 5:00pm after playing in the fountain all afternoon. It's an amazing site, with band music, a Duck Master leader, and an entire lobby full of people cheering on a bunch of waterfowl. Good times.
The thrill of getting to come home a day early was slightly overshadowed by my hotel stay last night... whoever was in the room next to mine decided to smoke some harsh drugs of some kind, which filtered into my room throughout the evening. It was a non-smoking room, but I guess when you decide to do drugs, you've pretty much already thrown caution to the wind and laughed in the face of authority. I debated whether I wanted switch rooms, but as it got later and later, I finally just decided to stick it out and not go through the extra trouble.
As it ends up, that was stupid. Because when I woke up I found that I had a sore throat from the fumes.
When I got to the airport this morning, the check-in attendant apologized up and down that there wasn't an upgrade available to me, but when I got my boarding pass it was a First Class seat. Luckily, this time there wasn't an incident with any First Class assholes, so it was a pleasant trip home. I had some episodes of the TV show House on my laptop, so the time just flew by (so to speak). While I enjoy the show, every episode seems the same. Somebody gets sick with a mystery illness that nobody understands. They try something, it doesn't work. They try something else and make things even worse. Then, just before the patient is going to die, they miraculously figure out a cure. It's formulaic and gets tiring.
Anyway, now I'm back home for a few days. In going through my photos from my short trip just now, I found one I thought was kind of funny:
It's not that I wanted to call and report him for being a bad driver, his driving was fine, it's just funny that the driver is so paranoid about people reporting him that he felt the need to put duct tape over the number.
Coming back from a trip is always chaotic, even when it's just four days long. Add to that the fact that I leave again this weekend, and it's just that much worse. There's so much I want to do... so much that needs to be done... and just not enough hours in the day to make any measurable headway. The only reason I have time to even write this is because I've got a backup running on my work files for the next twenty minutes.
Oh well, here's my day so far...
Bush: The oddest voicemail was awaiting me at work. Somebody from Congressman Tom Reynolds' office called on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee and left me a vague message about my attending some kind of dinner with the president. Thinking it was a mistake, I called back to see if they had meant to leave the message for somebody else. As it turns out, they didn't. They specifically had my full name. Furthermore, the dinner wasn't with the president of the NRCC, it was with the President of The United States. I could not figure out why they had my name, considering I am... 1) Not a Republican, and 2) Not a resident of New York, which is where Tom Reynolds represents. Anyway, when I explain all that to the lady at the NRCC, she replied "you don't need to be a Republican to have dinner with the President." Which made me laugh out loud, because I'd probably end up being shot dead. Something tells me that my overwhelming urge to bitch-slap President Bush so hard that his lips are smacked off his face would not be looked kindly upon by the Secret Service. I vehemently disagree with the man on so many levels that I simply can't imagine being at some kind of dinner function with him (no matter how much of an honor something like that is supposed to be).
DSL: I am a long-time supporter of EarthLink Internet Services. For years I've been a happy subscriber because EarthLink is a big supporter of Apple Computer, and is always up-to-date on the latest Macintosh OS foibles. Then last year they lowered their monthly price from $49.99 to $39.99... for everybody except me, and I was (needlessly to say) very upset. I called three times to have them fix this error so I could save $120 annually on my internet bill. Each time they promised to do so if I would renew my contract for a year, which I was happy to do. But every time they didn't process the adjustment, and I ended up continuing to pay $49.99. Finally, Verizon offered me a $29.99 price I couldn't refuse (that's $240 a year in savings!) and I called this morning to dump EarthLink. When I explained the situation, the lady tried to convince me to stay and said she would honor the $39.99 price I was promised. I told her I'd agree if she's give me a credit for the $120 I've lost from their screw-ups, but apparently they didn't want my business that bad. Oh well. Hopefully I won't be without DSL at home for more than a day or two.
State: Ever since driving through Alabama, I can't help but think they got shafted. I'm sure there's a very good reason for it, but why is it that Florida stole most of Alabama's coastline? Greedy bastards. I mean, they've already got ocean on three sides (not to mention Disney-World)... what do they want with Alabama's only real shot at beach-front property? Surely Alabama could benefit from the tax revenues that come out of Pensacola and the entire Fort Walton Beach/Destin resort area? Kind of sad really. When I complete my world domination, I'll have to fix that...
Toob: What in the heck is up with Veronica Mars?!? As the show played out last night it was just one shocking revelation after another... The Russian Mafia? Logan has a sister played by Alyson "Willow" Hannigan? Veronica finds her mother? Duncan and Meg? Veronica and Deputy Leo? And the most shocking possibility: VERONICA AND LOGAN?!? And now it looks like it's on hiatus for several weeks, which is a huge bummer. Such an amazing show. And speaking of amazing... Betty White is killer on Boston Legal lately. They keep giving her a little more to do, and the latest "born again" angle to her maliciously wicked Catherine Piper character is icing on the cake.
AppleTiVo: The rumor mill is running overtime that Apple is wanting to acquire TiVo, with TiVo's stock price jumping 17% as a result. That would rule the earth, because finally TiVo would have the proper financing, technology, and drive to innovate itself out of the horrible mess they've gotten themselves into. My only hope is that if something like this were to ever actually happen, Apple would 1) release TiVo files as protected QuickTime format rather than the stupid proprietary format their using now, and 2) give us an "iPod Video" to play them on. Given their success with audio in the iTunes/iPod arena, it seems unthinkable that Apple wouldn't want to get in on video too. Absorbing TiVo would be a good start, and give us something cool as an alternative to "Windows Media Center" crap. Next would be an iVideo store where we could buy movies and TV shows. I am giddy in anticipation. Yes, giddy as a schoolgirl.
iPod: Speaking of iPod... Apple updated it's lineup today. iPod Minis have been given brighter colors, more memory, longer battery life, and a cheaper price. iPod Photo was reconfigured in two much less expensive models. The original iPod looks to be on the way out, since there is only one model available now... I can only guess this means all iPods will eventually have color screens and "photo" capabilities.
The exciting bit is that Apple is also releasing an iPod Photo "Camera Connection Cable" in March which will allow you to transfer photos from your digital camera directly to the iPod. That's so compelling that I may actually have to think about buying a new iPod next month... not for music (for which I am much happier using my iPod Shuffle) but for the storage and photo backup features while traveling.
Switch: Speaking of Apple... on the way home from Seattle yesterday, I stopped at the SouthCenter Mall to see the new "Apple Mini Store" that they dropped in. It's really sweet and, like every other Apple store, joyfully packed with potential Windows switchers. While I was waiting in line to ask about AppleCare repairs on my PowerBook, I saw two Mac Minis, a PowerBook, and a few iPods sold in just thirty minutes. They could have sold at least a half-dozen iPod Shuffles in that time as well if they had any in stock (the phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting them). Every time Apple opens a new store, it's like printing money. Because once people get a taste at just how amazing a Mac is compared to the Windows shit they've been using... they're going to buy. The guy who bought the PowerBook was a musician who stopped by to "check out the Mac" and ended up making a purchase after playing around with Garage Band for just fifteen minutes. He just kept saying "this is so cool" and "I can't believe it" over and over and over again. I thought he was going to pass out when he asked "how much extra does it cost for the Garage Band software?" and was told it was included free with the computer. "It's really FREE? How can they do that?!?" Well, it got you to buy one of their computers, so that's how. I just hope he didn't get into an accident rushing home to start playing with his new Mac.
Yargh. Whatever am I going to do without internet tonight? Just my luck that this is when some Trackback spammer is going to slam me... it always happens when there's nothing I can do about it.
WTF? Do TrackBack spammers actually read my blog before spamming me? Just yesterday I was musing as to how TrackBack spammers always seem to slam me when there is nothing I can do about it... I'm on a plane... without internet... whatever. It's as if they wait for the most opportune moment and then strike. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but after what happened last night, now I'm not so sure. Within two hours of my last entry, I started getting TrackBack spams on a regular schedule. By the time I got to work early this morning so I could check my email, there were around 120 waiting for me to delete and blacklist...
The most disturbing thing about this is that all of these disgusting TrackBacks were actually listed on my blog for a period of time. The "no-follow" link tag is obviously NOT WORKING, because spammers are more determined than ever. Movable Type needs to add forced-moderation of all TrackBacks IMMEDIATELY. It won't stop spammers from attacking me, but at least I have the piece of mind of knowing that they won't show up on my blog. There is a plug-in available that's supposed to do this, but I couldn't get it to work properly... the solution needs to be integrated into the system, and Movable Type is who should be doing it. So what are they waiting for?!?
QUENTIN TARANTINO HAS JUST BEEN CONFIRMED TO BE DIRECTING CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION'S SEASON FINALE EPISODE!! And, as if that weren't enough, he came up with the story idea as well! I have been longing for Quentin to return to Alias, but I think this is actually more exciting. Quentin rules the earth for filmmaking, and is apparently a big CSI fan, so there couldn't possibly be better news for an already excellent show. You can read all about it at the Hollywood Reporter. I wonder which character is going to be in "grave danger?"
And, while we're on the subject of CSI... has anybody seen the cover to the latest TV Guide? It has Warrick, Nick, and Catherine on the cover, with Catherine looking like a hooker! Then you open to the interior, and there she is looking even more like a hooker! I guess that's one way to improve your "horny males" demographic!
Are you a collector? If so, what are some of the things you collect? I used to be a huge comic book collector, and still buy about a dozen books each month. Other than that, I collect DVDs, Hard Rock Cafe pins and HRC T-Shirts. I also have quite a collection of postcards, guidebooks, and other crap I've picked up from my travels.
If you could collect anything... no matter how rare or expensive, what would it be? Motorcycles... whether they be rare, not-rare, expensive, cheap, foreign, domestic... it doesn't matter. Any kind of motorcycle at all. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd also collect original works of art by Monet and Diego Rivera, plus glassworks by Dale Chihuly.
Looking around you, what is some ordinary, everyday object you possess that would make an interesting collectable 100 years from now? I'd think my Macintosh G4 Cube would be a pretty cool collectable for some future Mac fanatic.
FQ RECOMMENDED: Are there any public collections you enjoy (museums, galleries, etc.) that we should know about? The Smithsonian is a collection from "America's Attic" that's pretty cool. Though I love museums, and have too many favorites to list, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is probably the most impressive, simply because the sheer volume of art in their collection.
Collect yourself at the FridayQ.
I don't know why I am such a magnet for life's little oddities, but the strange stuff seems to cling to me like velcro. Not a day goes by that I don't find myself saying "well that's a bit odd." And today has been stranger than most.
Since Verizon still hasn't got my DSL working, I've been leaving for work early each morning to check my email and see how many TrackBack spams I've got piled up. That in itself is not odd, but the fact that the killer geese were back and waiting for me as I was leaving was. I still have no idea what I have done to get these birds so pissed off... but there they were running around and honking all over the place while I was trying to get to my car. As I was scraping the frost off my windshield, one particularly sinister goose decided to run over and honk at me personally. I finally screamed at it to "shut up!" after which it just stared at me for a bit, then turned tail and wadled away to discuss the matter with his evil geese brethren (or so I would imagine). I'm certain that tomorrow the geese will have devised some kind of revenge, so if you don't hear from me again, I was eaten by angry birds.
Once at my office, I eliminated the twenty-or-so TrackBack spams and then moved on to my "real" email. By far the most intriguing of which was a letter from somebody who stumbled across my Flickr photo album and was wanting to know if I was single and looking to "hook up." At least, it was intriguing until I noticed that the email was from a bloke named "Brendan." Not being quite that desperate for companionship (at least not yet), I had to write and politely decline. The odd bit here was not that I got the email (who am I kidding, I'm about as masculine as Michael Jackson on a good day), but that I was inexplicably flattered to have received it. I suppose I'll have to analyze that when I have some spare time available.
Then, as if a sign from a higher power that I shouldn't have dismissed that email so quickly, I received an unexpected call from my ex-ex-ex-girlfriend. And here's where I struggle to find the words that can properly sum up my feelings toward this woman because "scorching bitch from hell" just doesn't seem to cover it. Perhaps I should consult Mr. Jerz or something, because even more descriptive profanity such as "sack-licking whore" utterly fails to adequately describe my loathing. Resisting the urge to just scream "f#@% YOU BITCH!!" into the phone and hang-up, I grit my teeth and ask what in the heck she could possibly want. Turns out her mother wants my address and she was wondering if I had changed it. And here's the odd bit... I HAVE NEVER EVEN MET HER MOTHER!! About a million thoughts go running through my head, all of them profoundly bad. The only conclusion I can come to is that this is some kind of clumsy attempt to get back together, so I end up screaming "f#@% YOU BITCH!" after all and slamming down the receiver. Now I'm wondering if her mom just saw my picture or something and wanted to send me cookies. Crap! I like cookies!
Wishing I had some calm-inducing drugs, I instead take out my passport so I can get a current photocopy. Every time I return from a foreign trip I update the copies in my safety deposit box so that there's a proper record if I should lose my international identity. So there I am flipping through the pages, looking for an EU stamp from when I went to Germany last month... only to find out there isn't one. The immigration guys in Amsterdam didn't stamp it! Then I notice I didn't get one for my previous trip to the EU either. "Well that's odd" I say. I didn't think the USA had such an understanding relationship with our European forbearers, but there you have it. I guess it does eliminate those embarrassing self-stamping-related accidents at passport control, but now I'll never be able to fill up all the pages in my passport as I had hoped.
And then my mail comes. Included within is a sample packet of laundry detergent, which is odd because I so rarely wash clothes at work. As if that weren't enough, I also get some kind of advertisement which is written in what I think is Portuguese, with no English translation. I'm tempted to run it through Alta Vista's Babelfish translator, but I just don't care enough. Perhaps if there was a screaming monkey on it or something.
So here I sit on my lunch hour attempting figure out how I can wedge in a trip to Stockholm in April so I can attend the "Rocky Stocky" Hard Rock Anniversary Event, all the while wondering what could possibly come up this afternoon to top my morning. I'm sure the aliens will be landing any minute now.
The movie Sideways is racking up all kinds of critical acclaim, and sweeping the art-house awards circuit. Something this special I just had to make time to see.
And... I just don't get it.
It's not that it is a bad film, it's just that I am mystified at how so many people are falling head over heels in love with it. Aside from a few clever bits of writing, some nice character work from Paul Giamatti, and an excellent performance by the ever-brilliant Sandra Oh... well, there was just so much nothing in the film. Mind-numbing stretches of nothing.
It's as if the people working on the film got to certain spots where they didn't know what to do, and so they simply said "well, let's just drag things out and maybe people will think we're being artistic." But, for me, it just didn't work. And I'm not saying that every frame of a film has to be wall-to-wall action either. I mean, my favorite film of all time is Field of Dreams, which has plenty of quiet moments... but they mean something. Sideways, on the other hand, is a character piece with very little character and not much else. I've seen episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that had more of an impact on me.
And that brings me to the Oscars tomorrow night... I saw nothing in Sideways which convinces me it is Best Picture material. Thomas Hayden Church had zero depth to his character, and was so paint-by-numbers predictable that I can't imagine him being in the same league as somebody like Morgan Freeman for Best Supporting Actor. Finally, Virginia Madsen's character had so little screen time and complete lack of emotional detail that I can't even fathom why she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the first place. I guess being a "critical darling" gets you a lot of mileage.
And through it all I think back to Kill Bill 2 which had everything going for it, yet it gets snubbed from a nomination to make room for something like this?? Travesty!
It's a perfectly lovely afternoon for breaking out my motorcycle. Which, of course, means that I must be flying out today. Granted I'm only gone until Wednesday but, given my luck, there will be snowstorms breaking the minute I'm back home (with a foot of snow on the ground). It's not that I'm pessimistic, it's just that I've been set up for disappointment far too often when it comes to the weather.
I suppose I should pack my suitcase. And make my rental car reservations. And load a new playlist onto my iPod Shuffle. And eat some lunch. Or maybe I should just forget it all and go back to bed.
Bah. I hope I have enough clean underwear for the trip.
Things that are pissing me off right this minute...
Delayed: Naturally, my layover in Seattle for the flight to San Francisco was delayed. On-time departures are becoming exceeding rare now-a-days, and it has me seriously reconsidering air travel. To drive to San Francisco takes 12 hours. To fly here today (including all the time for transfers, security, and all the rest) took 10 hours. And it's not as if I am any less exhausted from flying than I would have been driving... they suck equally considering out of all that time, the flight from Wenatchee to Seattle is 40 minutes, and the flight from Seattle to San Francisco is 1-1/2 hours. And it doesn't help that Alaska Airline's connection schedule out of Wenatchee is pretty terrible in the first place.
Labels: The first blog entry I read this morning is from Patrick, which refers to a CNN article about how music labels are wanting to increase the cost of digital downloads so that they can make more money. What a bunch of monkey-spanking asshats! AT 99¢, DIGITAL DOWNLOADS ARE ALREADY TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE!! For example... to buy a CD of John Mayer's Heavier Things from Amazon costs $9.99 which is fine if you want a disposable piece of plastic that will clutter up our landfills once you've ripped it. To buy Heavier Things from iTunes Music Store costs $9.90... which seems pricey given that there was NO CD PRODUCED!! Digital music should be CHEAPER than CDs, and now dumbass music companies want to charge MORE?!? I can tell you right now that the minute it costs more to purchase digitally than it does to purchase a CD, I am STEALING EVERY f#@%ING SONG I WANT... WITH NO GUILT WHAT-SO-EVER!! If music labels think that punishing people who want to buy music legally is the way to increase profits, let's see how they feel when everybody is finally tired of their bullshit corporate greed and NOBODY buys music legally. Perhaps then musical artists will figure out a way to release their music WITHOUT dumbass record labels and we'll be rid of the label-system once and for all.
Verizon: Just found out that Verizon accidentally cancelled my DSL installation and has rescheduled it AGAIN... this time for MARCH 9th!! Good thing I signed up for one-month of dial-up service, because they've got their heads so far up their asses in coordinating between what is happening between the sales/service/disconnect/connect departments that I may NEVER get a hook-up.
Access: It used to be that I got pissed off when a hotel didn't have high-speed internet access available. Now that everybody seems to be getting it, I only seem to get pissed when they want to charge for using it. I am currently staying in the beautiful Westin Millbrae at San Francisco International Airport. It's home of the magnificent "Heavenly Bed" which makes me love Westin hotels so much, and gives the chain an edge when I have to decide where I am staying. Except they charge $11.95 a day for internet access, which sucks ass. I am of the feeling that internet is like running water and electricity... it is a necessary part of a hotel stay, and should be included with the room. From now on, I don't give a shit if my "Heavenly Bed" comes complete with a happy-ending full-body massage, so long as Westin charges for internet access, I'll be staying someplace else.
Hah: Just kidding. If Westin really did offer happy-ending full-body massages for free, not only would I not care that you had to pay for internet, I'd probably move in and never leave.
The one bit of good news is that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) has finally made it all the way to the airport! So now it's just a $5 ticket to get into the city, which is a pleasant change from the $15 it costs for an airporter bus, $35 for a taxi ride, or $40 for a car rental. Too bad it's forecast to be raining all day today.
When you are a vegetarian in San Francisco, there is really only one thing you need in order to decide where to eat, and that would be Dave's SF Veggie Restaurant Page. This amazing resource gives you the low-down for many of the Bay Area's finest vegetarian establishments, and is updated frequently. Among the most highly recommended on Dave's list is a Chinese restaurant called "Golden Era Vegetarian Cuisine," which has amazing food that's so delicious you will never miss the meat...
After a truly amazing meal of Pot Stickers, Spicy "Chicken" (imitation), and Plum Lemonade, we headed off to see The Aviator, which is a terrific film. And while I haven't seen the Clint Eastwood boxing-snuff flick Million Dollar Baby, I find it difficult to believe that it could be superior to the Scorsese epic about Howard Hughes. It had just the right balance of biography and action to be constantly entertaining though, as usual, Scorsese needs a stronger editor to pare down this 3-hour film by at least a half-hour (particularly the decline of Hughes' mental state, which went on for far too long). I suppose the most surprising thing about the film was the cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio turning in a shockingly good performance that redeems his lame Titanic work. Even more amazing was Cate Blanchett's eerie rendition of Katherin Hepburn... she OWNED that role, and earned the Oscar she got (and then some). I still maintain that Sideways, while somewhat entertaining, is in nowhere near the league of The Aviator, which is truly an Oscar-worthy nomination.
Oh, and before I forget, I just want to mention something that happened while I was at Fisherman's Wharf, on my way to meet Dave for lunch. Here, take a look at this...
See that five-dollar bill? Well that's all you need in lieu of an apology now-a-days.
While standing at the street by Pier 39 trying to figure out what bus I wanted to take, some ass-clown in an expensive suit comes out of nowhere, running for a taxi... AND KNOCKS ME COMPLETELY ON MY ASS IN THE PROCESS! He has his wallet out so, as he opens the taxi door, HE THROWS FIVE DOLLARS AT MY HEAD!! He doesn't say he's sorry. He doesn't ask if I am okay. He doesn't bother to help me up. He just throws a fiver at my head and gets in the damn taxi.
What the f#@%?!?
I don't know what makes me more disappointed... 1) That this inconsiderate, monkey-spanking ass-wipe thinks that throwing money at things is an acceptable way of dealing with a problem, or 2) That he thought I was only worth a measly $5. So now I've got a jacked-up leg that feels as though my hip has been ripped out of the socket... with which I have to make a 45-minute drive to the East Bay tomorrow morning. What is WRONG with people now-a-days? When did "sorry" turn into a $5 bill?
Between family, friends, and work... I have been to San Francisco many, many times. And because of that, I'm about all "touristed out" on all the sights and attractions here. This is actually a good thing, because it allows me to concentrate on what's really important: 1) Visiting the San Francisco Museum of Art so that I can see Diego Rivera's The Flower Carrier, which is one of my most favorite paintings of all time.... and 2) Going to Chinatown so I can get some freshly-made fortune cookies that are so good, they come very close to proving there is a higher power at work in the universe...
The "Golden Gate Fortune Cookies Factory" is tiny. Barely a closet off of Ross Alley, actually. There's room for only two automated cookie machines, which are run all day long, churning out hundreds (thousands?) of cookies. In the ten years I've been going there, I see the same two ladies every time. As if the fresh cookies are not enough, if you purchase a couple of bags worth (at $3 each), they'll toss some of the ruined (unfolded) cookies in your bag... STILL WARM! There is very little that can compare to a deliciously crispy fortune cookie when it's hot off the griddle.
The forecast said it was going to rain all day today, but the weather was absolutely brilliant. Beautiful blue skies and crisp air all around. I took advantage of the day to visit the new Apple Store, then head down to the wharf so I could see if there were any interesting new pins at the Hard Rock Cafe there...
Yeah, that crab-thing at Pier 39 really freaks me out too. Anyway, it was about as perfect a day as you can get in the City By The Bay, which is very sweet indeed!
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