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Photo Wall (Stairwell Edition)

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2019

Dave!As I mentioned a few times (or maybe it was just yesterday), I'm building a photo wall in my stairwell. Originally it was going to be a wall for friends and family, but it became much bigger than that when I realized I wouldn't have enough wall space for everybody. So now I'm going to have a Blogger Friends Wall in the stairwell, another Blogger Friends Wall in the dining room, a Family Wall in the upstairs hall, and a Friends Wall in my entryway.

And figuring out how to go about it all is not as easy as it sounds. There are hundreds of photos to organize and frame which requires some planning. For the sixty-six photos in my stairwell, I measured all the frames I've been collecting over the past two years and drew up a schematic...

Stairwell Photo Wall Plan

   
If you'd like to see a zoomable image, you can go to the project page I made right here. It has a magnifying glass so you can see everybody up-close-and-personal...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Despite being a huge amount of work and more frustration that I imagined it could be, the results are amazing...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image
My cats don't seem to know what to make of it yet. But they're keeping their paws off. For now.

   
The most important part of the plan was determining how low I could go and still see everything. If I were to put photos too far down on the wall, I'd have to be on my hands and knees to see them. After hanging test photos, I was able to see what photos I could see as I approached the stairs...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

Then what I would see with each new step...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
As I was testing placement I found out that my eye went to a different area depending on whether I was climbing the stairs... descending the stairs... or looking down from the second floor...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Going up the stairs I tend to look downward so I see the photos along the bottom. But going down the stairs my eyes tend to go down the middle for some reason...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
This is perfect, because I end up seeing all the photos. Even the photos that are too high to be seen from the stairs are perfectly visible from above...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
I couldn't be happier with how it all came together, and I actually look forward to using the stairs now so I can see my friends...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
Even if hanging the photos at the top was a bit precarious thanks to my homemade scaffolding setup...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   
And now for my notes on creating this beautiful monstrosity...

  • When planning a collage, I found it's important to not only vary frame placement by size, you also need to be mindful of randomizing the depth of the frames. Otherwise you end up with high spots or low spots that look weird. This was harder than it sounds. I used all black frames, so it was easier than it could have been. I have no idea how insane it would be to add different colors to the mix. I drew out the above template on my computer so I could move things around to try and get a pleasing pattern. Frame depth was shown as different colors so I could more easily come up with something looking random.
  • Finding picture frames I could afford was a lot of work. The only time I went truly crazy was when the local Michaels Crafts store went out of business. The prices (which were already pretty good) were crazy cheap, so I bought as much as I felt comfortable piling up on my credit card. Everything else was purchased from buy-one-get-one sales (Fred Meyer's is great for these), special sales (Pier One is insanely expensive, but their sales are terrific), or clearances (Target flushes out their old stock at great prices to make room for the newer stuff). Some stores (like IKEA) have good quality and decent prices all the time, which was handy for filling in spots where I didn't want to wait for a sale.
  • I tried to be sensitive to people who were friends that had a falling out or couples who are no longer together, but there were a few times I didn't have any choice but to use what I had available. I also tried to avoid shots with people I don't know, but that too was unavoidable a few times. I'm okay with this. I hope the people in question are.
  • There are people I've tried hard to erase from my life, and leaving them off my wall is just another opportunity to remove them. It's tough, however, when they were so prominent in your life that Photoshopping them out of photos you'd otherwise like to use is often times impossible.
  • On the flip-side, running into photos of people you love that are gone is tougher.
  • Few things are more frustrating than trying to find photos you know exist but can't locate. Either because you've lost them or they were taken by somebody else and you don't have the originals to work from (or it's just a low-res image that got posted to your blog). There are people and shots I would have loved to have included, but simply could not find anything workable. I am trying hard to track them down in the hopes that those I missed can go on my second Wall of Bloggers.
  • Originally the smallest frame in my plan was 5x7. I had to change everything when I realized that some of the photos I had were of such low resolution that this was too big for them. So I went down to 2.5x3.5. There's not too many photos that can't go down that small, and even web-resolution images look okay. At first I was blowing them up anyway and trying to paint out some of the JPEG noise, but then everything looks fake. Better to print at a smaller size and have it look good than printing too big and have the problems magnified so the photo looks bad.
  • I was shocked at how many photos I wanted to use were blurry and awful upon closer inspection. Which is to say I'm not shocked that most of my blurry photos were taken at events where I was drinking.
  • On the wall, there's not much difference between a $4 frame and a $20 frame, because people are looking at the photo not the frame.
  • Quality is not governed by price. One of my most expensive frames that I really loved ended up falling apart when I took it apart to put the photo inside. That being said, cheap-cheap frames are going to be exactly that.
  • I found it much easier to work from the top down in strips rather than assembling a collage from side to side. And starting from the middle and working outwards was the smartest decision I made. Check your measurements often, especially if you are centering your photos on a wall.
  • To hang everything, I used 3M Command Strips which I bought in bulk to save money (thanks, Tim Gunn!). I also used a small level, which is essential for getting things to hang straight. There are pluses and minuses to using Command Strips. The plus is that it's very easy to get things placed where you want and they can be easily removed without damaging the wall. The negative is that they are visible on thin frames where you want to use every last bit of frame to attach them to. Also... not as environmentally-friendly as a nail and far, far more expensive. For a project like this though, the pluses far, far outweighed the negatives, and I am happy with the results.
  • Acrylic does not look the same as real glass for some reason. Unless my frame is so big that glass would be dangerous, I've been buying only frames that have real glass because I like the look better.
  • Working those little metal tabs that hold in the picture/backer/glass on most frames got to be painful after a while. Eventually I started using a putty knife to save my nails and fingertips.
  • Manufacturers who staple their corner protectors to the frame should be slapped.
  • I printed all my photos on an old HP printer that I had stored in the garage and hadn't used in years. The printheads were completely plugged and it took many soaks and flushes with cleaning fluid to get them unclogged. The ink cartridges were all dead, which meant I had to track down replacements. When I couldn't find them for a reasonable price, I ended up getting refillable cartridges that worked amazingly well at a fraction of the price. Now that I've printed all my photos, I'm pretty sure the printer is due for recycling, but I'm extremely grateful it lasted long enough to get through what I needed. Not that I am endorsing HP printers, mind you. The company is complete and total shit, and I won't be buying anything from them ever again if I can help it. The paper I had saved was still good, except one corner where moisture or something got to it. No big deal, but it was sealed in a plastic bag so I'm not sure how it happened.

And now on to planning my next wall.

Remember there's a zoomable image here that has a magnifying glass so you can everybody (maybe even yourself!)...

Stairwell Photo Wall Image

   

Bullet Sunday 599

Posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Dave!Don't go fretting that you aren't in touch with what's new in life... because a Very Special Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• NEW Disco! I tell you what... Star Trek: Discovery has been knocking it out of the part again this season. Even slow, throw-away episodes (like the latest one) have surprising depth. But, then again, any time spent with my favorite Kelpien, Saru, is time well-spent...

Doug Jones as Saru Star Trek Discovery

There is a campaign to get Doug Jones an Emmy for his work as Saru, and I can't think of another actor more deserving. Jones has flawlessly constructed movement, voice inflections, and mannerisms that feel completely alien, and the skill to be doing all that while completely encased in makeup and facial appliances is remarkable. He had better at least get nominated.

If you like sci-fi and are not watching Disco, you owe it to yourself to take out a free trial for CBS All Access and see what you've been missing. I am a diehard fanatic of Star Trek: The Original Series, and feel that this is the best series to come out in the Star Trek Universe since then. I was not impressed with any of the Next Generation/DS9/Voyager/Enterprise shows, but this? This is great stuff (despite the bitching and moaning from "Star Trek fans" that hate it... which, if that's you, don't worry... you'll be getting your Next Generation pablum when Captain Picard comes back with his new show).

   
• NEW! Netflix has just unleashed the third season of the One Day at a Time reboot, and it did not disappoint...

If there's a flaw, it's that the show feels the need to continue addressing absolutely every social issue in existence. It's handled really well, but it can still be exhausting. Yes, it's great to see the show address current events, but it's at its best is when it focuses on the people behind the issues. Fortunately there's plenty of that as well, and I'm hoping we get a fourth season.

   
• NEW Boys! Pet Shop Boys have a new EP that just dropped called Agenda. And it's as relevant and interesting as you would expect...

And then there's thinly-veiled political message, perhaps?

Yeah. Just when we needed it most.

   
• NEW Ellen! What would it take to coax Ellen DeGeneres to do her first standup special in 15 years? Apparently it's the $20 million that Netflix ponied up for Relatable, which was released back in December...

I just watched it again last night and I gotta say... it's worth the money. Ridiculously funny. Probably my favorite of all her specials so far. Until Netflix lures her back with $50 million maybe?

   
• NEW Boarding! CGP Grey released a new video this past week on how to best board an airplane. It's an interesting discussion, to be sure...

   
• NEW Country! With rare exceptions, I am decidedly not a country music fan. Though recently Casey Musgraves has me re-thinking this stance with her amazing Country-Pop fusion, which is some of the best music I've heard in a while. Because of that, I found this analysis on the current state of Country to be a fascinating watch...

The fact that the finger-snapping madness is becoming such a predominant force in music today is pretty disheartening. Time will tell if it's eventually replaced by something even worse.

   
No more new for you. See you next Sunday.

   

No Frills Air

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Dave!Air travel is expensive, yo.

And as somebody who has done their fair share of finding fair fares, I can tell you that it's just getting worse and worse. Airlines are raking in millions... billions... in profit, and they're doing it by raising the cost to fly and nickel-and-diming you to death for absolutely everything. Most airlines still serve you a tiny cup of Coke and a cookie or a wee bag of snack mix for "free"... but if you want to actually have something to eat, you'll have to pay for it. Want to check a bag? You'll pay for that too. Want to sit in the front of the plane? How about have a reserved seat? Oh yeah, most airlines are definitely charging for that now.

It reminds me of a cartoon series by Al Jaffee from MAD magazine back in 1975...

Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Al Jaffee No-Frills Airline
Artwork by Al Jaffee and ©1975 Mad Magazine — from Heritage Auctions


Funny thing is... Jaffee wasn't that far off. Kinda.

Well... unless you are an elite flyer with the airline. Then you get some of those perks at no additional cost. There's also perks (like checked bags) which you can get by having a credit card from the airline.

But for the casual traveler? Most of the things you pay for now are stuff that you didn't have to not so long ago. Given the price to fly, it's like adding insult on top of injury, but that's the way it goes.

A while back my home airline, Alaska Air, was facing stiff competition in critical markets from discount no-frills airlines. Rather than continue to lose infrequent flyers to these bargain-basement alternatives... or have to cut fares on their "Basic Economy" seats and lose money... they introduced "Saver Fares" which give you a cheaper rate with some serious restrictions...

  • Non-Refundable. Something happens and you need to cancel? Not so much.
  • Not changeable. Did your plans change? Looks like you're buying a new ticket!
  • No front-of-cabin seats. Back to the back of the bus you go.
  • No complimentary upgrades. Even if you fly 500,000 miles annually!

As an example of the savings, here's a Seattle to Boston flight, each way...

Alaska Air Saver Fares

So... $60 savings total, roundtrip.

Unless I was really strapped for cash and positive my plans wouldn't change, there's just no way I'd ever do this. Sure you save $60... but if something happens with your travel plans (this happens to me all the time), you're out $468 for a ticket you can't use.

Despite my having an aversion to "Saver Fares," I am awfully glad that Alaska has them for people who only care about price. I want my local airline to be successful, and anything they can do to be competitive is something I am in favor of.

At 6'2" what I'm not in favor of is cutting legroom... yet again... though it would seem the FAA has put a stop to that. At least for now. Heaven only knows what regulations Presidebt Trump is going to abolish next that fuck people over in favor of his corporate owners.

But something tells me it will resemble something straight out of Mad magazine, like everything else he does.

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Snowmageddon Las Vegas

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2019

Dave!I woke up not knowing whether or not I'd be on my way to Las Vegas today.

The forecast for this week was "partly cloudy" but it ended up being "Snowmageddon Part 2: The Snowpocalypse" and flights were being canceled left and right. I don't think I single flight left my local airport yesterday. Driving over the mountain passes was out of the question because they keep closing.

But because this is one of those rare trip to Vegas for fun with friends where I don't have a deadline... all my flights were fine. Better than fine, actually, thanks to a First Class upgrade...

Dave in First Class

It's only when I have to be at a critical meeting at a precise time that all my flights are delayed, canceled, or otherwise screwed up.

And so...

Glitter Gulch awaits.

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Neon Refrigeration

Posted on Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Dave!I end up in Las Vegas for work a lot. Four to six times a year. On those trips, it's not my favorite place. Because when you're here for work, it can be the loneliest city on earth. It's not like most cities where you can wander to a small corner cafe, soak up the atmosphere, and feel a part of something real. Partly because there are no small corner cafes (at least not on The Strip or in Old Town), but mostly because nothing in Las Vegas is real.

But when you're here with friends?

Las Vegas is one of the most exciting cities on earth.

Tonight we wandered around and ended up at the fountains at the Bellagio, which is always nice...

Fountains a the Bellagio

From there, some of us went to Brilliant, which is a light show at the Neon Museum "boneyard" where to play popular songs associated to Vegas while signs light up and videos play. I've seen it before, and it was actually quite nice...

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Briliant Neon Museum Show

Except...

As you can tell from that bottom photo where everybody is bundled up an shivering, this time is was bitter cold. As in "I'm wearing my winter coat but still freezing my ass off" cold. And thank heavens I had my winter coat, because I would have been a wreck without it. I rarely travel to Vegas in the dead of winter, so I had no idea this was what was awaiting me. Fortunately, I had dressed for the weather back home to get to the airport, so I was (somewhat) prepared.

At the end of the day, I was up $36 thanks to a lucky pull at a slot machine in the Paris hotel. If I play my cards right (or, better still, don't play cards at all) I just might go home with my shirt on my back.

Given the weather both here and back home, that's actually my best-case scenario.

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Bullet Sunday 600

Posted on Sunday, February 17th, 2019

Dave!Five hundred days of bullets and counting... because Bullet Sunday live from Las Vegas starts now...

   
• Fremont! I'm not much of a gambler, but if I'm going to do so, my preferred place to throw away my money would be "Old Town Vegas" AKA Fremont Street. It's a little more laid back, the slots are looser, and it doesn't take 20 minutes to walk between casinos. And then there's the giant canopy which helps protect you from the rain... like what was coming down last night in sprinkles. Also? It's pretty...

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

   
• Alaska! I've never had an "Alaskan Waffle" before. I've never even heard of the term. Essentially, it's a waffle with ice cream, which is genius. Needless to say, I had to try it...

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Alaskan Waffle at th Blueberry Hill restaurant

Way. Way. Way too sweet for me. I could only eat half of it. But I give it a 9 out of 10... would order again.

   
• Venice! Most of the big theme hotels on the Vegas Strip are beautiful and well done. But The Venetian is probably my favorite. When we passed through for dinner, they had a fantastic Chinese New Year display up...

Chinese New Year at the Venice Hotel

Chinese New Year at the Venice Hotel

As you might guess, It's "The Year of the Pig." And this little piggy was huge. And gold.

   
• Dessert! One of the many restaurants in The Palazzo (at The Venetian) is Mott 32, a high-end Chinese affair. We went there for dessert after dinner at The Factory, because they're just so amazing. "I had The Bamboo Green Forest"...

The Bamboo Green Forest Dessert

Pretty phenomenal. The base is a scoop of yogurt lime sorbet floating in heavy yuzu cream. On top is shredded matcha sponge cake surrounded by crispy yoghrt crumbs and topped with white chocolate bamboo spears and crumbles.

   
• Wonder! Finally got a chance to play Wonder Woman slots...

Wonder Woman Slots

I'd seen it before, of course, but never had a chance to give it a shot. Princess Diana was not kind to me. Ended up walking away with 10¢ after spending $20.

   
Until next week when I'll be back home. I think...

   

Home is Where the Layover Is

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2019

Dave!Today I got to Las Vegas McCarran Airport just in time to see that my flight to San Francisco was being delayed. Since I had a tight connection to my Seattle flight followed by a tight connection home, I went to the Alaska Air ticket counter to find out if I was going to make my connecting plane in SFO. They thought I probably could, assuming there were no further delays, but were happy to put me on a Seattle-direct flight that was leaving right away.

This was a huge relief, because spending the night in San Francisco... or Seattle... because I missed one (or both) of my flights was not how I wanted to spend my Monday.

After arriving in Seattle I had just over four hours to kill, so I had some dinner and hung out until it was time to go to my gate.

Which was... D25?!??

I found this funny because I knew full well that the D Concourse at SeaTac doesn't go that high. Out of curiosity, I headed down D and find a way-too-small sign pointing to a new expansion, which still doesn't make much sense (where could they fit the planes?). So there I was, going DOWN to gate D25... only to find that there are no planes. Which means that they built this multi-million dollar expansion to bus people to their planes? Oh yay!

SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

Just when I think that this piece of crap airport couldn't possibly be a bigger piece of crap... here it is. On top of having to bus, which is already a bummer, whomever designed this steaming pile obviously doesn't ever spend time at airports, because there are STILL not enough seats! As in ALMOST NO SEATS! There was one flight going out of the terminal... ONE... and people were still having to stand around and sit on the floor...

No Seats at SeaTac Terminal D Expansion

I wish I could say I'm surprised. Like everywhere else at SeaTac, there aren't enough places to sit down because they've been ripping out all the chairs to make room for retail shops. Here they had a golden opportunity to FINALLY make sure there was ample seating available in a brand new building... and completely blew it. Turns out this massive new "concourse" is MOSTLY VACANT SPACE! Hardly any seating at all. GREAT JOB, PORT OF SEATTLE! Probably rubber-stamped by the same brilliant decision-maker who decided to take down the entire fucking food court for months and months and months to make cosmetic changes to something that wasn't that old to begin with. Brilliant use of money. How the fuck do I get a job where I can do nothing but sit back and think of ways to waste tons of money and screw over weary travelers?

But the lack of seating was just the beginning.

They also put in stairs instead of escalators. How stupid is that? The vast, vast majority of people WHO ARE AT AN AIRPORT are going to have luggage with them. A burden that's far easier to navigate with an escalator... WHICH IS WHY THEY FUCKING PUT ESCALATORS IN AIRPORTS! Not that SeaTac can keep their escalators running for shit anyways. They're constantly breaking down.

And so your choices to get down to the bus gates are as follows...

  1. Drag your bag down the stairs anyway, because it's the quickest way to get down.
  2. Use the one elevator, which is meant for people in wheelchairs and such.
  3. Walk down a massive ramp that's longer than the damn building and takes forever.

And then there's this bussing business.

Look, I get it. Having to add more and more flights means more and more planes and, after a while, you simply run out of space. That being said, bussing to planes is an absolutely horrendous fucking solution, and one I absolutely hate. Especially in a city like Seattle that's known for rain. Nothing like getting completely drenched while waiting to go up a bunch of stairs after unpacking from a frickin' bus.

Even worse? Seattle's airport is simply not set up to bus efficiently because there's no room for a bus route to go. Most of the time on the ride was spent waiting for planes and service vehicles to get out of the way. And you'd think that once you finally get to your plane your troubles are over. But that's not the case. Because the aircraft is still way, way at the other side of the airport. So servicing the plane means that airport personnel also have to make their way out to the aircraft. And that takes a while, as we learned when this announcement was made...

"Sorry for the extended delay, but this spot is really difficult to get to, and we had to wait for them to find us with the paperwork we need before we can take off."

Right now you may be thinking "How much worse can this fiasco get?"

Let me tell you!

THE PILOT HAD TO NAVIGATE THE AIRPORT IN REVERSE IN ORDER TO GET TO THE RUNWAY. I SHIT YOU NOT! They actually had to drive the plane BACKWARDS... ALL THE WAY TO THE FUCKING RUNWAY! That's how much room there is in the tarmac backwater where they are piling up planes to bus us to.

You can't make this stuff up.

Just another layover at lovely SeaTac airport.

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And Then There’s Sleep

Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Dave!Well that was an adventure.

When I drove over the mountains on Monday, it was bare roads and sunny blue skies. When I drove back this morning, it was snowy roads and overcast skies. I also had ten miles of white-out conditions where traffic crawled to 20mph as travelers struggled to even see the road.

And now that I'm home?

More snow.

There have been many years of my life where winter has run well into March, but this year I'm just ready for it to be done. I need to get my garage converted to a wood shop and start in on the long list of projects I've got lined up. Several of them are going to take months of work, so the sooner I get started, the more I can get done.

In the meanwhile though?

More sleep.

When your heart is broken and you just don't want to face the world, what else is there?

   

Miss Kitty Gold

Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2019

Dave!I'm not much of a gambler despite being luckier at gambling than most.

Sure it has some entertainment value, which is why I'll throw some money on the table or drop some in a slot machine when I'm out with friends. But gambling is not something I seek out, nor do I use it as a cure for boredom when I'm working in a place like Las Vegas. The odds are just too stacked against the player for me to find much joy in it.

For this birthday weekend with my friends at the Tulalip Casino Resort, I decided to set a gambling budget of $100. I ended up spending $0 of it because I was awarded "free play" money by the casino for staying at the hotel on my birthday. It was $50 in credit which I ran up to $78 in real money which I then used to gamble with (and ultimately lose). Perfect. Hours of entertainment that cost me nothing. That's a kind of "gambling" that I understand.

What I don't understand is people who gamble away more money than they can afford to lose. And yet it happens all the time. People have the expectation that they're going to win, when they really should have is the expectation that they are going to lose. Winning is just a happy accident... if it even ever happens.

While I was getting my $100 out of the ATM yesterday (that I didn't end up spending) there was a guy on his phone screaming at his bank because they "took his money." Except they didn't take his money... he had probably been gambling all morning and kept taking more and more out of his account. Before he knew what had happened, it all added up, and his money was gone.

Oh well. Hopefully he had enough left for rent. But, if his screaming was any indication, probably not.

The $78 in "real money" I got was won playing a slot machine called "Mega Meltdown." As I started to lose it all, I switched to a machine called "Miss Kitty Gold"...

Miss Kitty Slots!

I never truly understand how multi-line slot machines pay out... stuff flashes and you win or stuff doesn't flash and you lose. But it had cats on it, so I figured it was an entertaining way to finish off the last of my "free money" winnings.

Next thing I know, my screen is filling up with flashing pink cats and I'm up to $60 again.

It was at this point I heard a kerfuffle going on behind me and saw some woman stomping off. I must have looked puzzled because a guy standing there said "She was mad because she was going to play that machine." Now I was really confused. "There was nobody here when I started playing." And there really wasn't. "I wouldn't worry about it. If you had really stolen the machine from her there are cameras everywhere and she'd be asking for security.

Alrighty then.

One more reason to take a pass on gambling, I guess.

Well, that... and the fact that I still have my $100.

   

The Keys of Onaconda Farr

Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Dave!The first thing I did when I bought my house was to rip out the door locks so my keychain would be two keys lighter. My new locks are opened via keypads or via an app on my phone... no key required.

In case you haven't guessed, I am not a fan of keys. They are (literally) ancient technology that isn't necessary in this day and age. And yet I have loads of them. Most of my keys are at home in my safe. The only two I lug around with me are my car key and my office key. To carry them around more easily, I bought a minfig keychain at The LEGO Store. It looks like Greedo from Star Wars, but it's actually an ambassador from Greedo's planet named Onaconda Farr.

That was years ago.

After a while Onaconda Farr's face and clothes rubbed off. His antennae and ears also wore down. And, last week, one of his legs fell off(!).

So I found a replacement on eBay for $5 and ordered it last week. And now he has arrived...

LEGO Keychain!

So cool. Almost makes me not dislike keys so much.

And, oh yeah... today I drove back over the mountains from my Birthday Weekend celebration with my friends.

I was happy to see that there's still plenty of snow in the mountains. Perhaps it's enough that we don't have to worry about drought this summer? I certainly hope so...

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

Winter Mountain Pass!

And now back to Real Life.

Such as it is.

   

Paine, Thievery, and Little Packages

Posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Dave!We did not have a great night.

I went to bed at 8:30pm with the hopes that I'd be able to get a bit of sleep before having to drive over the mountains at 3:30am. I took a Benadryl to help things along and fell asleep around 9:00.

Shortly after midnight I was awakened by Jenny going up and down the stairs crying for her brother. After a few minutes I couldn't take it any more and called for her. She ran into my bedroom and hopped on the bed like her tail was on fire. After ten minutes of belly rubs, she fell asleep...

Jenny Tummy Rubs at Midnight

As did I.

Then, around 1:30am, Jenny apparently realized she wasn't getting belly rubs and woke me up to complain about it. My cats never bother me when I'm sleeping, yet here was Jenny... standing on my chest and meowing her head off. After I woke up, she flopped right down for more belly rubs. She looked quite cross that I had dared to stop...

Jenny Tummy Rubs at 1:30 AM

Next thing I know, it's 3:30am and Alexa is blaring an alarm to wake up. I'm already packed, so the only thing to do is give Jenny a handful of treats before heading out. I felt terrible that I had to leave because she was still walking around sniffing for a trace of her brother. As I walked out the door she just sat there like she didn't know what to do with herself. The poor thing looks so small...

Jenny Sitting in the Middle of my Home

But there's a lot of love in that small package.

This is my first time flying out of Everett Paine Field*. I'm pretty excited about it because it's so much more convenient for me to get to than shitty SeaTac airport... 2-1/2 hours compared to 3+ hours, with far better traffic conditions.

You can still that they are still new to accommodating passengers, because things are not quite completed...

Paine Field Temporary Walkway

Paine Field Temporary Walkway

This used to be a private airfield for Boeing, so I'm not sure what kind of terminal was here previously. The new passenger terminal is pretty great...

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

I don't have any checked luggage, but baggage claim looks painless...

Paine Field Baggage Claim

Being a small airport, security was tight, but getting through was a breeze.

The gate area is really nice. Unlike shitty SeaTac, there's enough seats for everybody to actually sit down! =gasp!= Imagine that!

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Adjacent to the gate waiting area is the passenger lounge, which is stellar...

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

There's a nice bar...

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

And nifty window seating...

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

And even a fireplace and table orchid across from my big comfy seat!

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Overall, five stars from me! I'm glad to be able to make most of my West Coast flights from here. Hopefully they start up East Coast flights soon!

Interesting to note that my iPhone XS is reporting that I'm 5G here...

Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Except... not really. The radio in the iPhone XS is only capable of "Fast 4G" (Cat 16 Gigabit LTE) which is not 5G at all. I'm assuming that's why there's an "E" after "5G" there? Apple is stupidly lagging behind other handset manufacturers when it comes to next-gen cellular data networks. Typical.

My seat was upgraded (nice!) and the flight from Alaska Air was excellent as always. The movie I picked to watch was Mary Poppins Returns. I'm not much for musicals at all, but was curious to see what they did with it. It's a surprisingly good film with fantastic imagery and animation... though I did fast-forwarded through some of the musical numbers that were too groan-inducing for me to manage (the exception being A Cover Is Not the Book which was excellent)...

Mary Poppins Movie Poster

Casting was note perfect. Emily Blunt had just enough proper British disdain to make a terrific Mary Poppins, and Lin Manuel Miranda was as fantastic as you would expect (his rap in the middle of A Cover Is Not the Book is everything you could want from him). The children were scattershot... being exceptionally well-behaved one minute, then unbearably annoying the next. The biggest surprises came from some guest-casting that I won't spoil here. Suffice to say that there were a couple actors popping up that made the movie even better.

And then... hello Los Angeles.

First thing I did upon landing was make sure that Jenny got her breakfast, which she did...

Jenny at the Feeder

Except... oops... I didn't adjust the amount of food, so she's getting Jake's breakfast as well. She never ate from his bowl though, which was sweet. We'll see if she gets hungry enough later in the day to eat his portion as well!

My flight back isn't until tomorrow evening, but I would really like to pick up Jake tomorrow afternoon so Jenny doesn't have to spend an additional night alone. Unfortunately there is only one flight SNA->PAE per day at 5:50pm, but... I may be able to get a flight into SEA then Über back up to Paine Field in the morning? Something to look into when I'm done with work, I guess. Sometimes life on the road is a bitch, yo.

And, speaking of work, off I go...

   
*A few people have asked me why I no longer fly out of my small local airport. That's a bit of a long story, but suffice to say it has nothing to do with the airport itself (which is nice), the Alaska Air staff (which is exceptional), or the airport security personnel (which has always been great). No, the reason I avoid flying out of Wenatchee when at all possible is because they have partnered with the assholes at Republic to handle their parking. I fucking loathe them. They force you to pay in advance, even if you are a business traveler like me who is never quite sure when you'll be flying back home. So you have to pre-pay for the longest possible time you'll be gone. If you run past your guesstimate as to when you'll be back, you pay a fine. If things go well and you can come back early, Republic categorically refuses to refund money for the days you DIDN'T USE. And so... so long as the Port of Wenatchee chooses to use a bunch of fucking thieves for their parking contract, I'm not flying out of there so long as the mountain passes are open and I can safely drive to a better airport.

   

How Now Tasty Bao?

Posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Dave!Last night I headed to South Coast Plaza to bask in all the things I will never be able to afford to buy. It always amazes me how some of these high-end stores have like... a mere fifty items for sale... yet manage to pay the obscene money that the rent must cost. Until I realize that selling just two $8000 purses a week means that a store would clear $64,000 a month. Then it all suddenly makes sense.

Easter is a big to-do at the mall. They decorated up an entire wing to be Springtime fantasy town in America...

Easter at Costa Mesa Mall

Where you can get your kid's photo taken with a creepy robotic Easter bunny...

Easter Bunny at Costa Mesa Mall

For the adults? Pieces by the late, great Alexander McQueen were on display...

Alexander McQueen Display

So... fun for all ages then!

The first thing I did was buy two-and-one-quarter glorious pounds of something I could afford... California Crunch at See's...

See's Candies California Crunch

"Would you like them wrapped?

"Please! Lord, yes! If you don't wrap them, they'll never make it home."

The second thing I did was head to The Apple Store.

=sigh=

I desperately need a new laptop. It's literally the only tool I need in order to work while I travel. I went to the Apple Store to once again take a look at their MacBook Pro, thinking maybe I was being too critical in my previous assessments. So I start typing on one. Again. Which I find almost impossible... it's so uncomfortable, and I'm making more spelling errors than I'm spelling words correctly. So I ask the Apple sales guy "Do you ever get used to the keyboard? Does it ever start feeling normal?" His response? "I don't know that you ever really get used to it... it's more like you adapt to it..."

And so I walked out buying nothing.

There was a time that I was such an Apple whore that I bought shit just because it had the Apple logo on it. Now I have grown to loathe the company and their shitty products so much that I don't even know what to do with my rage. The Apple Developers Conference is coming up. If they are going to announce a new MacBook Pro, that will be the time. Will it have a keyboard you can actually type on? Who knows? If not, I guess I see if I can repair my SEVEN YEAR OLD MACBOOK, which is far superior to anything Apple currently has for sale.

Oh well.

The third thing I did was meet up with Jordan Ninja, Atomic Bombshell, and family, for dinner at Din Tai Fung. This is an amazing dumpling restaurant that has all kinds of amazing dishes on the menu. It also has a statue of Bao in the lobby!

Bao Dumpling Statue at Din Tai Fung

If you don't know Bao, it's an amazing Pixar Short cartoon...

Needless to say, I ate entirely too much.

And because I never learn my lesson, I decided to eat entirely too much at lunch today as well.

At the recommendation of Jordan Ninja and Atomic Bombshell, I decided I wanted to visit France while in Orange County because I am a fanatic over French pastries. 15 minutes walk from my hotel is a French cafe called Moulin, which has a beautiful display of pastries to drool over...

Moulin Pastries

This place is pretty amazing. I am a sucker for a good cream puff, so I ordered a "St. Honoré." Apparently my pronunciation was accurate enough that the woman behind the counter assumed I spoke French. Everything tastes eerily authentic. Down to the taste of the flour and the way the cream reacts when you cut through it. And, because I am a glutton for punishment, I got a croissant as well...

Moulin Pastries

And now... I'm close to exploding.

Good thing I'm on my way home before I can do any further culinary damage.

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Monday is for Travel

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2019

Dave!I'm so exhausted I can barely function.

Which means it must be time to clean house, pack a suitcase, drive over the mountains, and fly off to destination unknown for work, right?

Well, it's not really unknown... it's Las Vegas... but what I'm going to be doing once I get there is mostly unknown. Right now the majority of my time will be spent sitting around waiting for the phone to ring so I can leap into action.

Or, more likely, fall out of bed into action.

I'm just that tired.

I flew out of Paine Field in Everett again, because I absolutely love having an alternative to shitty SeaTac...

Paine Field Everett, Washington

Paine Field Everett, Washington

Since this is actually "Boeing Field" there is a cool lineup of what I'm guessing is Boeing customers as you taxi out to the runway...

Paine Field Everett, Washington

And now... time for dinner with friends.I hear everybody is doing that now-a-days.

   

Tuesday is for Nachos

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Dave!Last night I took care of work, then met up with friends on their last night in Vegas so we could go out to a late dinner. We ended up walking to Fatburger, which was fine by me because they not only have a great Veggie Burger (Boca Burger patty) they are now selling Impossible Burgers too! Can you imagine? Not one, but two vegetarian choices? At a burger chain? It's like they think vegetarians are real people or something!

Today was all work all the time, but I did manage to get away for a late lunch at my beloved Nacho Daddy (complete with a Long Island because I just can't help myself)...

Nacho Daddy Nachos!

I prefer the location in Old Town at the end of Fremont, but The Strip location is also pretty great.

After that it was back to work. I thought I'd grab a quick cup of fray from Pinkberry at Crystal Shops but was shocked to find that it was CLOSED! When I asked about it, I was told that all three of the Pinkberry locations in Vegas are now gone, including the one at The Tropicana...

Pinkberry Vegas Closed!

Well that blows. I wonder if Pinkberry is in serious financial trouble or they just couldn't make a go of it in Vegas?

It was probably for the best, because I had dinner lined up with long-time blogging friend KC at Il Fornaio. Lucky me, they had the butternut squash ravioli at this location just like they do at the downtown Seattle restaurant...

Ravioli at Il Fornaio!

The walnuts inside were chunkier than what I'm used to, but it was still a pretty fantastic dinner.

After saying goodbye to KC, I decided to walk next door to the Park MGM so I could see the $550 million worth of renovations that got sunk into the hotel and casino from when they took over The Monte Carlo. It's nice, but not overly-extravagant. The lobby has a very cool wood structure in the ceiling that is supposed to look like tree roots or something. I'm not quite sure how they managed to cut-and-paste things together so seamlessly, but it's pretty nifty to look at...

The Lobby at the MGM Park Hotel

The Lobby at the MGM Park Hotel

The Monte Carlo was always kinda an enigma to me. They advertised as a luxury brand, but the hotel and casino never much lived up to it. Sure there was marble on the floors, high-end fixtures, and such, but it always felt dated to me. When I stayed there a couple years ago I didn't think the rooms were very luxurious, that's for sure. Now that the Park MGM has taken over, it seems as though things are back on track. It's a nice-looking property in the public spaces anyway.

I had read somewhere that Britney Spears was setting up residence in the Park MGM, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, Bruno Mars was playing a show in their theater. No idea what that's about. Now that I think about it, I haven't heard much of anything about Britney for a while now.

And there's my last night in Vegas. Tomorrow morning I'm back at work until 10:30am, then off to the airport so I can fly out and drive back home to my cats in the afternoon. It's always tough to watch them wandering from room to room looking for me and coming up empty. Especially since Jake still has a bit of a limp yet.

Crossing my fingers for an easy day of travel...

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Wednesday is for Burger Breakfast

Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Dave!I had to wake up fairly early this morning to check into work. Once I had some things handled, I had time for a leisurely shower and... surprise surprise... breakfast!

Beside myself with joy at the prospect of being able to actually have breakfast for once, I tried to think of what I wanted to eat. All that came into my head was the Fatburger I had when I arrived on Monday night. It was everything I could want in a meal. I thought I would look up Fatburger's hours to see if there was time to stop on my way to the airport.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that not only is Fatburger open 24/7... they are serving burgers all hours of the day and night!

Fatburger Veggie Burger for breakfast it was...

Fatburger Breakfast!

It was everything I dreamed it would be.

The weather has been really nice these past couple days. Warm and breezy, but not hot enough to be uncomfortable. It's almost enough to make me want to stay a couple more days. Almost.

This time around I'm staying at New York New York because it's where my friends were staying. It's also close enough to my work that I could walk instead of taking pricey taxis. It's a pretty nice hotel, even if the rooms are fairly basic. It certainly has my favorite skyline of all the Vegas Strip hotels...

New York New York Hotel in Las Vegas on a Sunny Day!

My room was in that light orange tower, fourth from the right. I was actually on the North side facing The Park... something I didn't know until I finally looked out the window this morning...

New York New York Coaster Out My Window!

Two things...

1) I kept hearing "wooshing" sounds and assumed it was the wind. Turns out it's the roller coaster. The occasional sounds of people screaming were not people whooping it up on The Strip... but people riding said coaster.

2) The Park MGM hotel used to be The Monte Carlo. At the very top there is a "hotel within a hotel" with luxury suites that used to be called "Hotel32." I note that now the "hotel within a hotel" has been renamed "NoMad." I've actually been up there when it was Hotel32 and it was pretty spectacular (seriously, Google for photos of it). I can't imagine what it must look like after the remodel.

   
And now I'm at the airport waiting to fly home. As if that wasn't good enough news, I was upgraded to First Class for the flight home (which is pretty cool considering I was upgraded to First on the way down too...

First Class Upgrade!

   
And now it's time to head home so I can drive home!

   

Laser PRINCE at PacSci

Posted on Friday, May 10th, 2019

Dave!The Laser Dome at Pacific Science Center (next to the Space Needle) is the largest and longest operating laser dome in the world. It began as the "Spacerium" theater which was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

It's been many years since I've seen a show at the Laser Dome (I've been to Laser FLOYD, Laser BOWIE, and Laser BEATLES). But there was no way I was going to miss their latest show... Laser PRINCE!

Laser PRINCE Banner!

The first thing I noticed that the show was fuller and more colorful than I remember. After a quick check, I found out that they did an upgrade to their system last January and now have nine lasers. This is "the most full color lasers permanently installed in any Laser Dome in America." It would have been nice if they upgraded the sound as well. While it's not terrible, it's far from great.

The setlist was pretty much what you'd expect. All his most popular singalong hits plus a surprise appearance by Sometimes It Snows In April. All I wanted was my favorite Prince track, Raspberry Beret, which was (fortunately) included. So far as laser shows go, this one was pretty good and we had a great time...

Laser PRINCE!

Laser PRINCE!

Laser PRINCE!

Laser PRINCE!

Naturally there was a lot of purple lasers used throughout, until the show closed with Purple Rain. Unfortunately YouTube won't let me embed the audio... but if you've got a browser that can play direct video, you might try this crappy low-quality movie that has the sound still attached...

If you have the opportunity to see Laser PRINCE, and are even a little bit of a fan of his music, I would absolutely go while it's playing. Tickets are $14 now (it was only $10 when I went last!)

After you can go up the Space Needle if you want...

Seattle Space Needle

As we'd been up it many, many times, we elected to skip it this time.

And that's all for Laser PRINCE.

Hoping to get Laser PET SHOP BOYS some day.

   

Mother’s Day Traveler

Posted on Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Dave!2019 has been surprisingly accommodating considering the milestones it's been racking up for me.

First year without my mom. First Valentine's Day with nobody to buy flowers for. First Birthday Weekend celebration without my friend of 33 years. And now, as advertising will not stop reminding me, first Mother's Day with no mother.

I will be the first to admit, that last one is proving to be tough.

For thirteen years my gift to my mom on Mother's Day was a new vacation. We traveled the globe, visited all kinds of amazing places, and had fun doing it. Recently I was going through all the travel books I made for her as a souvenir. Starting with our 2002 trip to Europe right up through our 2014 safari in Zimbabwe.

Initially I created books for her at Apple Books. They were nice enough, but I eventually switched to professional printing because I was unhappy with the photo reproduction. On our first trips, I didn't take many photos though. Just a few snapshots here and there. I took so few photos that I was able to combine the first four Apple Book trips into a single professional book (I used the colors of the cloth covers on the original books as borders)*...

Mom Travel Book!

The look of the book was nothing groundbreaking, but the graphic designer in me tried to create stylish introductions at least...

Mom Travel Book!

Photo presentation was pretty basic though...

Mom Travel Book!

As the years went on, I got a little more ambitious. I was designing nicer, more elaborate looking covers, for one thing...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

And adding maps, travel routes, and such...

Mom Travel Book!

On later trips I was taking a lot of photos and putting considerably more thought into the the images I was capturing. With this in mind, I started buying "lay-flat" books and adjusting my layouts so photos could be as large as possible. I also tried to tell a story to make the content more interesting...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

The final book is my favorite for so many reasons...

Mom Travel Book!

Mom Travel Book!

Every book was always ended with a photo of the both of us...

Mom Travel Book!

For 2015 we were going to take a cruise along the fjords of Norway. 2016 was going to be Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. But those trips weren't to be. I thought she might be well enough in 2015 to take a Spring trip that was less ambitious. I booked flights to South Dakota so I could finally see Mount Rushmore and check the only state I haven't been to off my list (North Dakota). But a couple months before we were to leave I realized there was no way that she would be able to travel. Her confusion was far too great and it wouldn't have been a fun time for either of us. And so that was that.

Mother's Day isn't sad to me because I don't have anybody to buy a card and flowers for... after we started traveling, she never wanted me to spend money on that stuff anyway. It's now a reminder that I've lost a friend who explored the world with me. And while the books, photos, and memories are nice, ain't nothin' going to take the place of that.

   
*Apple Books was a part of the original iPhoto. You could select photos that you had stored there, then have the program automatically build a book for you. For the time, it was actually pretty cool. They had durable fabric covers with a nifty label stuck on the front...

Mom Travel Book!

There were issues though. In addition to the print quality, which was fine but not great, the books were kinda small and the layouts had a lot of wasted space and the pages were all one-sided...

Mom Travel Book!

By having my books professionally printed, I paid way, way, way more money... but I got to control the layouts, get superior print quality, and print both sides of the pages.

   

Deerest Motorists

Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Dave!Today is my final charity trip of the Spring!

Thanks to the Trump Government Shutdown, nobody from our group was allowed to make travel plans for the first three months of the year. The concern was that we might end up trapped away from home (and our paying jobs). So instead of having seven trips over twenty weeks, I ended up having to make up for lost time and cram five trips into eight weeks. This was more difficult than I anticipated, but you do what you gotta do.

San Diego travel is almost always a "day trip" for me where I essentially fly down for a critical one hour meeting, then just fly back home. But first I actually have to get to San Diego.

I left home at 6am so I could make my way over the mountains, which are packed with deer on the roads this time of year...

Deer on the Road!

It's not a big deal if you are careful with your speed and stay alert*, but there are always assholes who do neither. When I slowed to let the deer in the above photo cross, a truck behind me had to slam on the brakes to avoid smashing into my rear end. If he had trouble seeing a big blue car, a small brown deer probably would have been roadkill.

I counted nine deer on my way over, which means there were at least that many that I missed.

By far the most dangerous thing on the road this trip was not a deer, but a motorcycle.

Having been a motorcyclist, I can tell you that riding on the highway is pretty much taking your life in your own hands. You have to be on high alert every single minute, because drivers don't pay attention. With this in mind, I was a very cautious rider and still almost ended up plowed into on several occasions.

And then there are riders who decide that highways aren't nearly dangerous enough, and decide to ride stupid.

As I was approaching the left-lane exit for I-5, a rider weaving in and out of traffic cut me off twice. And here he is directly after my close call cutting in front of other drivers... one of whom was just trying to get the hell out of the maniac's way, even though they needed to be in the left lane to exit...

This is phenomenally stupid. Not only did I almost hit him, but two other cars nearly did the same. Which begs the question... what was so damn urgent and important that this rider decided to risk an accident (and possibly his life) to get to?

I probably don't want to know, because it was likely something stupid... like making it to work with enough time for a Starbucks.

Despite this guy's best efforts, I'm here at the airport awaiting my flight, so I guess I'll just count my blessings that nobody died and hope the rest of my trip goes better than this.

   

*As in stay seriously alert. Sometimes the deer are really difficult to spot, and can dash out onto the road at any moment...

If you are traveling in the mountains (especially this time of year), might want to drive like a deer's life depended on it.

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Extraordinary San Diego

Posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Dave!Landed at 1:30 yesterday, was done with work by 3:30, and in my San Diego hotel room chillin' by 4:00. Usually I would just fly back the same day, but since I started bypassing the toxic waste dump that is SeaTac International Airport and flying out of Everett Paine Field, my flight back doesn't leave until tomorrow at 2:20pm (unless I wanted to fly home at 7:45am, which I did not).

With time to kill, I met up with San Diego friends for dinner. Which was awesome.

Then we went out for dessert at Extraordinary Desserts. Which was extraordinary...

Extraordinary Desserts San Diego!

I had the "Shangri-La" cake, which was described like this: "White chocolate mousse along with guava mousse and fresh strawberries are layered in between whipped cream and Kirsch infused vanilla cakes. Every girl loves this cake." And yet... I was secure enough in my masculinity to order it because I really wanted something strawberry. It's pretty enough to eat...

Extraordinary Desserts San Diego!

Delicious. And that's 24K gold leaf on the strawberry, which is great because I've always wanted my poop to be gold-plated.

As I've mentioned a few times, Jake has been really clingy after his accident, and this is the first time I've left him overnight since it happened. I checked in on him several times to make sure he's doing okay. After spending most of the morning looking for me, he took a long nap right in the middle of my messy bed...

Jake Sleeping!

Poor guy.

Before I knew it, time had flown and it was time for me to be flown home...

Warm Nuts in First Class!

My trip back over the mountains was much less eventful than the drive over, thankfully.

And that was the end of that.

My cats were happy to have me home... especially Jake, who wouldn't leave my side, which was kinda sweet at 10pm...

Jake Sleeping!

But kinda scary at 1am...

Jake Possessed!

Probably not great that I decided to take his picture with the flash on. Because, damn. If looks could kill...

And on that ominous note, enough work for the day... time for bed.

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Dave!I've been a massively huge fan of Dale Chihuly's glassworks for many years.

He used to be the subject a PBS specials where he would donate works to people who pledged a certain dollar amount in support of the Seattle station. Of course I was dying to own one of his glass concept paintings or an actual glasswork, but they were way out of my price range as a student in the 80's. Now that his popularity has skyrocketed, those same works are worth thousands... even tens of thousands... of dollars, so now I really can't afford it.

But I have made a point of visiting his many exhibits and installations around the world over the years, including his permanent exhibit at The Seattle Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Today one of my friends from the early blogging days, Copasetic Beth, was in town and so I got to visit again...

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Chihuly Gardens Seattle

Well worth a visit if you're ever in Seattle!

   

Pike Place

Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Dave!As touristy as Pike Place Market is, it's still one of my favorite spots in the city. Along with Pioneer Square it pretty much defines what I love about Seattle.

This afternoon I had a chance to visit again, which is something I really don't do enough.

Beware of flying fish...

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Good bye, Seattle.

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One Year On

Posted on Friday, June 28th, 2019

Dave!I am writing this at near-midnight on Friday knowing that by the time I finish my post it will be tomorrow... and the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. Of course I still miss her. If anything I miss her more than I did a year ago. I think it's because the memories of her declining health are becoming dimmer while my happier memories are becoming brighter. Happier, but also more painful, because they are a constant reminder of what I've lost.

Mentally I still have a lot of work to do, as I can't stop bouncing between extremes.

One minute I'm jealous... even angry... that other people have moms living into their 80's and 90's who are still living active, happy lives. It's not fair. Then the next minute I'm gutted because I hear that somebody's mom died in their 40's and they didn't get the time I had. That's not fair either. Cursed because my mom started sliding into dementia at 70 years old. Blessed because somebody else's mom was just diagnosed with dementia at 52 years old. Unlucky that my mom died before we could get to all of our travel plans. So very lucky that we got to see as much of the world together as we did. Happy that we were so close. Devastated that we were so close... because would it hurt this bad if we weren't?

It goes on and on.

I think the thing that hurts the most is knowing that I would give absolutely anything for just five minutes to talk with her again. The mom she was before she got sick. Just to tell her I love her. To tell her how much she means to me. But also to ask her if the deicions I had to make were okay so she could assure me that they were and she knows I did the best I could. Because of course she would say that even if she hated what I did. She's my mother, after all.

I know it doesn't make sense that I would want to ask my mom a question when I already know how she would answer, but I can't help it. The unthinkable choices I had to make won't stop haunting me. It's pointless to second-guess something I cannot change. And probably wouldn't change. My whole heart was invested in every decision, so what would I have done differently? I honestly don't know. But probably nothing.

It's now 12:11am on Saturday, June 29th.

Since it's unlikely that I will get much sleep... or any sleep... tonight, I suppose I will look through all of the travel books I made for my mom. It will probably just make me miss her more than I already do, but what's another drop of heartache to an ocean of grief?

Nothing. And everything, I suppose.

   

Hinterland and Cymraeg

Posted on Monday, July 8th, 2019

Dave!I have had Hinterland on my Netflix watch-list for a long time. Tonight I finally watched the first episode of the first series.

It's fantastic. Mostly due to the remarkable performance of lead Richard Harrington. You can feel the wheels turning any time he's on screen...

Granted, I'm only half-way through the first season, but I'm sure liking this show. The atmosphere they've created permeates every scene so the series feels more "real" than most.

What's interesting about this show (other than how good it's been) is that every scene is filmed twice... once in English and once in Welsh (which is called "Cymraeg" in the Welsh language). I did a YouTube search to watch some of the Cymraeg scenes and it's amazing how all these actors have to essentially perform the same show twice. And since Hinterland looks so grueling and demanding of the actors, I can't imagine how difficult that must be...

I'm sure they use all kinds of tricks to make the show affordable. In the scene above where he destroys a kitchen, for example, they were careful to make sure there was no dialogue so they only had to shoot it once. If he had said "I hate my life!" while smashing the dishes, they would have had to buy all new dishes, clean the set, then reset the scene so he could say "Rwy'n casáu fy mywyd!" for the Welsh version.

Here's the trailer in Welsh...

I first learned about Wales and the Welsh language in anticipation of my visit to the beautiful Hard Rock Cafe in Cardiff (Caerdydd). Cymraeg is a fascinating language which is estimated to be spoken by less than a million people around the globe. Most people have probably only ever heard of it on viral YouTube videos where people are pronouncing very long Welsh words...

Before wrapping up this post, I'd be remiss if I didn't post a link to one of my favorite comedy bits by Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert...

Happy Monday, everybody!

   

Working and Floating on Vacation

Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Dave!Yesterday morning I spent my vacation working.

Clearly I am doing my vacation all wrong and need to change things up.

So yesterday afternoon I spent my vacation drinking blueberry margaritas...

Bluberry Margaritas, chips, and guacamole

...then making an impulse decision to go floating down the river with friends again. It's just such a relaxing way to spend a lazy summer day...

Me floatin'

Me floatin'

The river is getting really low in spots, so I spent a good chunk of my time lifting my butt so I wasn't dragging on the riverbed...

Me floatin' in very low waters!

It was a nice day, and ducks were out everywhere...

Me floatin' by DUCKS

As the sun started falling, it got to be pretty shivery. Having your butt in cold water with cool breezes is fine when the sun is warming you... not so fine when it's not. By the time we made landfall, I was a popsicle.

And then my cold, dead heart was warmed watching a momma duck with her four babies...

Momma Duck and Baby Duck

The little ones move so fast they were almost impossible to photograph...

Momma Duck and Baby Ducks

That poor mom had her wings full, I tell you. Two of her babies would go one way... two would go another way... then she'd have to run back and forth until she had them all corralled. It's a tough job. But she was up to the task.

That's pretty good vacationing, isn't it?

Which is why I didn't feel quite so bad that today I spent half the day working, then cut my hair, cleaned my house, and paid my bills.

I did go swimming in the late afternoon though, so I guess it's all good.

   

Imagine Museum Interactivity

Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Dave!

Today was the first day I've felt like I'm actually on vacation. I mean, sure I answered a few work emails and made a few work calls... but I didn't do any actual "work" the entire day. That's exceedingly rare.

One of the things I did do was accompany my grand-nephew to Everett's Imagine Interactive Children's Museum. Sometimes these things end up being pretty janky, but this one was actually very cool. Plenty of imaginative exhibits to keep kids entertained for hours. Like an air-tube exhibit where you can see how air-flow can be used to push a scarf through some clear pipes...

Imagine! Museum Air Hankey

Young kids won't get the air pressure science that's being demonstrated... but they sure have fun chasing down those scarves! Pretty slick. Though I guess nobody at the museum has ever heard of a fart before...

Imagine! Museum Glow Puzzle

It's a museum built for kids, but no worries... the adults were able to have fun as well...

Imagine! Museum Thermo Photo Fun

I got to be a chef with plastic food...

Imagine! Museum Fake Food

I got to play with glow-in-the-dark puzzle pieces...

Imagine! Museum Glow Puzzle

I got to milk a giant plastic cow...

Imagine! Museum Milk a Cow

I got to shoot water-guns at balls...

Imagine! Museum Water Guns

Imagine! Museum Water Guns

I got to play with wooden monkeys...

Imagine! Museum Monkey Puzzle

I got to build some interesting architectural structures...

Imagine! Museum Wood Puzzle

And I also got to watch kids go nuts at the rooftop play-space, which is pretty great...

Imagine! Museum Rooftop Playground

They even have a dinosaur dig!

Imagine! Dinosaur Dig

Kids absolutely love this place and, if you've got young ones and are in the Snohomish County region, it's worth a visit.

An aside here... I was surprised that they allow you to take photos inside the place. I was careful not to get kids in my shots and, for those photos where kids were in them, to never photograph their faces. I'm pretty sure most people who were snapping away with their mobile phones were not so careful, and this raises some privacy concerns. Yes in this day and age you can pretty much be photographed anywhere at any time but, in a space that's exclusively meant for children, you'd think that it would be in everybody's best interest if photography was not allowed? I dunno. Perhaps I'm just overly paranoid.

Though the paranoia may not be entirely my fault.

There are statues with creepy eyes right out in front, so the museum kinda puts you in a paranoid state before you even step inside the place...

Imagine! Creepy Statues!

Imagine! Creepy Statues!

Imagine! Creepy Statues!

It's a nice enough artwork, but the white eyes make grandpa look like a pervy child predator or something. And is it just me, or does the little girl look like she's possessed by demons?

Probably just the paranoia again. I should probably look into that.

   

Very Very Frightening Me

Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Dave!I've somehow reached an entirely new level of exhaustion.

I went to bed at midnight expecting to get seven hours sleep before Alexa chimed for the cats' breakfast. I didn't manage to fall asleep until sometime around 1:00-1:30, so I was already off to a bad start.

Then the thunder and lightning started lighting up the sky and booming through my morning.

Surprisingly, Jake and Jenny were not phased, even when the thunder was so loud it was shaking the house. They were in the window ledges of my bedroom watching the lightning and trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from (when, basically, it was coming from the entire valley). This was a bit confusing for them. I mean, just look at the lightning strikes hitting Washington State today...


Lightning Strikes Map from Lightning Viewer, National Interagency Fire Center

I'm kinda in the middle of all that. Which meant I just lay there in my bed not sleeping while the world exploded.

Usually it takes 2-1/2 hours to drive to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. But this being summer and all, I have to allow an extra hour for multiple road construction stops. Then I had to add a half hour to that so I could get my $13 measles antibodies test blood draw. Then I thought I might as well add another half hour for lunch.

So basically I ended up getting no sleep and barely had time to check all my home security cameras and alarm sensors before walking out the door.

Three hours driving through road construction (which never fucking ends... NEVERRRR!) followed by lunch at Fatburger followed by a blood draw followed by a quick trip to IKEA to get a glass topper for my second guest bedroom nightstand followed by a two hour wait at the airport followed by a five-and-a-half-hour flight followed by a thirty minute ordeal getting to my hotel followed by fifteen minutes writing this blog entry.

And... I'm so done.

Here's hoping that all the lightning fires that got started were quickly contained and put out.

   

The Consequence of Filler

Posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Dave!I'm in the future! This post is for Wednesday but I'm writing it on Thursday because stuff happened.

My flight to Boston was great (thanks, Alaska Airlines!). My hotel at midnight was nice. My drive up to Maine was painless. My lunch was very good. My hotel is great as always. But work was pushed back several times over many hours, so I'm kinda in that limbo state that happens when you're sleep-deprived yet having to concentrate on the job.

Somewhere in all that, I needed a snack so I grabbed a bag of Mango Pineapple Mix. I love dried pineapple and mango, so it was an easy choice.

Except...

When I started chowing down, I noted that there was hardly any mango or pineapple taste to be found. As you chew it, it tastes more like peanut butter and raisins...

INGREDIENTS: PEANUTS, RAISINS, SUNFLOWER KERNELS, MANGO, PINEAPPLE, CASHEWS.

Well, shit.

Here in the USA, ingredients must be listed in order of volume. But they don't have to tell you the percentage of each ingredients. For my "Mango Pineapple Mix" my guess is that it's something like this...

  • PEANUTS: 50%
  • RAISINS: 23%
  • SUNFLOWER KERNELS: 18%
  • MANGO: 4%
  • PINEAPPLE: 3%
  • CASHEWS: 2%

So... not really a Mango Pineapple Mix after all. The ingredients might as well have read...

  • DISAPPOINTMENT: 100%
  • SATISFACTION: 0%

Mango, pineapple, and cashews are expensive, so they are used sparingly. Peanuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds are cheap, so they are used as filler. Which is fine, except in this case the filler is so overwhelming that you never really taste the ingredients that the mix was named after.

The product is a lie.

Which is nothing new. Companies lie to sell their crap all the time.

Just like politicians.

As the presidential race starts heating up, you quickly realize that all the threats and promises the candidates are making are just filler. Cheap lies they say so they can get elected. Promises, after all, cost nothing. If I were to break down the ingredients for a politician's motivations when running for office, it would probably go something like this...

  • MONEY: 150%
  • POWER: 130%
  • RE-ELECTION: 120%
  • FAME: 98%
  • ACTUAL FUCKING CONCERN FOR PEOPLE: 2%

Yes, I realize that all adds up to 500%, but you've seen how politicians operate... tell me that I'm wrong. And don't kid yourself, that 2% is very much dependent on whether having "concern" will jeopardize their bigger priorities.

The product is a lie.

Which is nothing new. Politicians lie to sell their crap all the time. Their "ingredients" might as well read...

  • DOING THE BIDDING OF THEIR LOBBYIST OVERLORDS EVEN IF THEY END UP FUCKING OVER THE PEOPLE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE REPRESENTING: 100%
  • ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS: 0%

Why American citizens don't give a shit about this obvious scam is beyond me. I see the headlines and marvel at the fact that people aren't rioting in the streets. Take this one, for example...

Trump said he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare. His 2020 budget cuts all 3.

You work your entire life so that one day you can retire. Significant chunks of your paycheck are taken for Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, with the expectation that this money will come back to you so that you don't have to spend your "golden years" living in disease and poverty.

And yet here we are.

If you're one of the wealthy individuals benefitting from the money being stolen from working-class America, congratulations, you got the country you paid for. If you're not one of those individuals, then I hope you enjoy your "golden years" living in disease and poverty. You voted for it, after all.

Change your mind? Here's a checklist for a good start...

  1. Demand term limits for all political offices.
  2. Demand term limits for Supreme Court justices.
  3. Demand abolishing lobbyist payola.
  4. Demand a new, more representative voting system.

That last one is the ballgame. It's also complex and interesting. Fortunately, CPG Grey has you covered. Watching these videos is well worth your time if you're at all concerned about just how badly fucked you are by our current political system...






And... back to work. And my shitty trail mix.

   

Mainely Assholes (Plus Cats)

Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Dave!The people of Maine are truly a gem. They are a lovely combination of Canadian courtesy, Southern hospitality, and Midwest sensibility... all rolled into some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Until you put them behind the wheel of a car, that is.

Every time I come here (and I've been doing it for a while now) I am in utter shock at just what aggressive assholes Maine drivers are. They are brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, and just overall mean.

Take today, for example.

I was driving back to my worksite after lunch at one of those weird Taco Bell/Kentucky Fried Chicken hybrids*. The speed limit is 30. I am driving about 42 because that's the pace that the cars ahead of me are setting. They are about ten car-lengths ahead, but I'm going the same speed that they are.

Then, out of nowhere, some woman comes blazing up behind me. She's revving her engine. She's swerving from one side of the lane to the other as if she's trying to see what could possibly be slowing me down to a mere 12 miles per hour over the speed limit. She is driving so aggressively that I become genuinely worried that she's going to crash into me. And that's the point... she is trying to intimidate me into going faster even though I'm already well above the speed limit.

And then it occurs to me.

I am driving a rental car with full LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) coverage.

So when I see a man limping across the street, having just cleared my lane, I use it as an excuse to stop. Then I'm all Let's see what happens, shall we? as I brace for impact.

She didn't hit me, but she did have to slam on her brakes and swerve off the road where it looked like she was having a heck of a time regaining control so she could keep her car on the shoulder and not slam it into the guardrail.

I can only guess that she was not happy.

But I sure was. Next time don't be such an asshole, you fucker!

Except she didn't learn anything, because she caught right back up to me, then illegally used an exit lane to burn past me at 50+ miles per hour. In a 30 mile per hour zone. I didn't look at her as she passed. I assumed there would be hand gestures I was not wanting to see. Because I'm the asshole in this scenario, apparently.

What's so stupid is that after she made all that effort to pass me, she was immediately stuck behind a whole string of cars going 40-42 miles per hour, so she was being a total asshole and almost wrecked her car for nothing. Eventually she pulled into the center lane for a left turn. I did look at her as I passed that time. Everything normal. She was focused on finding an opening so she could turn... no ugly glaring at me at all.

Look, if there's an emergency and she was trying to get her kid to the hospital emergency room because it's dying (or whatever), then fine. You should be driving like somebody's life depends on it. But then you'd be honking your horn and having your emergency flashers on so people would know to move, right? You wouldn't zoom up on somebody's bumper and act like a psychotic fucking piece of shit.

=sigh=

I miss my cats.

I look in on them several times during the day (and night) to make sure nothing is amiss, and it's all good. But it's still tough. This morning Jenny had an itchy ear. She keeps stopping to scratch it. She doesn't have fleas or mites or anything, this just happens sometimes with her. When I notice it, I usually step in to scratch it for her real good. There have been a couple times when I review security camera footage of her while at work that I've dashed home for a couple minutes to scratch her ears. But when I'm 2,400 miles away? All I can do is watch in frustration...

Jenny scratches her ear in a security camera footage still.

Generally speaking, my cats are very good about not jumping up on my dining room table... which I appreciate, because it saves on disinfectant cleaner from having to wipe it down all the time. But when I'm gone? Jenny seems to live on top of my table. I don't know if it's because she is always looking for me and thinks it makes a great spot to see everything... or whether she does it because she knows she's not supposed to be up there, and it's some kind of revenge for me having abandoned her. Eventually I gave up on trying to think of ways to keep her off, and just slapped a pair of my jeans down so at least she's not sitting directly on the table (because... ewwww... cat butt table). For whatever reason, Jenny absolutely loves sitting and laying on my jeans, so I never throw them out anymore. Any time they get damaged or torn beyond repair I just wash them and set them out as cat beds. Problem solved...

Jenny Sitting on Jeans Sitting on my Dining Room Table

All day and all night...

Jenny Sitting on Jeans Sitting on my Dining Room Table

At least she's content this way. Or as content as she can be when I'm not home, poor thing!

Jake seems to handle my absence better.

Until I get home. Then he wants me to know exactly how he feels about it.

   

*I like Taco Bell. They have great vegetarian options (7-Layer Burrito, Swap Black Beans for Refried beans... and their Cheesy Potato Griller is sublime) even though they may not be the healthiest options. But, when you're on the road and need vegetarian in a hurry... well... thank heavens I can "Make a Run for The Border." Though it's weird at the Taco Bell's with KFC inside, because then you are staring at weird stuff like this...

Colonel Sanders meets Mickey Mouse in an old photo at KFC!

Methinks The Colonel may be reconsidering where his "chicken" comes from.

RUN, MICKEY! RUNNNNNN!!!

   

Mission: Planet Hollywood

Posted on Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Dave!And so here I am back in Las Vegas.

My work isn't until tomorrow, so I came up with a mission to accomplish along the way to picking up some documents.

As you may or may not be aware, I have a separate blog for my Hard Rock Cafe visits called DaveCafe. Back in 2010 I rebuilt the site to run on Wordpress, but ended up losing all my notes and photos when my web hosting company crashed shortly thereafter. I still keep it updated with a list of Hard Rock locations and my visits, but I never managed to find time to put my photos and notes back. Maybe one day.

Something else I lost in the Great Web Host Crash of 2010? My Planet Hollywood fan site.

Oh yes. Along with Hard Rock Cafes, I also visited Planet Hollywoods, All-Star Cafes, Fashion Cafes, Harley-Davidson Cafes, and Motown Cafes. They were never destination-worthy like Hard Rocks to me, but so many times when I visited a city with a Hard Rock there was a Planet Hollywood there as well, so why not?

The (mostly) failed restaurant chain came up in conversation not too long ago, then came up again when I was watching The Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis. This got me curious to know if any pieces of my old fan site were backed up somewhere. So I searched my archives and, much to my surprise, the logos I created for the site popped up...

   
From what I can piece together, these are the locations I visited. The ones with check-marks are confirmed because I found photos I took of the restaurant...

  1. ✔ Amsterdam
  2. ✔ Atlanta
  3. ✔ Atlantic City
  4. ✔ Baltimore
  5. ✔ Bangkok
  6. ✔ Beverly Hills
  7. ✔ Chicago
  8. □ Columbus
  9. ✔ Dallas
  10. ✔ Gatwick Airport
  11. ✔ Gurnee Mills
  12. ✔ Houston
  13. ✔ Key West
  14. ✔ Kuala Lumpur
  15. □ Las Vegas
  16. □ Las Vegas Hotel
  17. ✔ London
  18. ✔ Mall of America
  19. ✔ Miami
  20. ✔ Montreal
  21. ✔ Myrtle Beach
  22. ✔ Nashville
  23. ✔ New Orleans
  24. ✔ New York
  25. ✔ Niagara Falls
  26. ✔ Orlando
  27. ✔ Paris
  28. ✔ Rome
  29. ✔ St. Louis
  30. ✔ San Antonio
  31. ✔ San Diego
  32. ✔ San Francisco
  33. ✔ Seattle
  34. ✔ Singapore
  35. ✔ South Coast Plaza
  36. ✔ Toronto
  37. ✔ Vancouver
  38. □ Washington, D.C.

I know I've been to the Washington, D.C. location because I remember the T-shirt I bought there. No idea why I can't find a photo of it. Columbus I don't remember at all, so I'm not sure why I made a badge for it. I do recall there was a "Planet Movies" at Easton Town Center in Columbus, but when I went there it had closed down, so that doesn't count. Maybe they had a restaurant too and I don't remember it? I used to go to Columbus for work, so if they had one, I probably visited it.

And then there's the two Vegas locations. I'm positive I've been to the hotel (I've seen a concert there, gambled there, eaten there, and shopped there)... and I know I ate at the restaurant in the Caesar's Palace Forum Shops a couple times. Yet I can't find a single photo to prove it!

Since these are two of the few Planet Hollywood locations still in operation, I decided to get my photos today. First was the restaurant. I made my way to where it's located and... it wasn't there! This was confusing, because they still have a sign for it outside of Caesar's...

A Planet Hollywood sign at Caesar's Palace against a flawless blue sky.

So I asked a security guard about it and, sure enough, they moved to a new location. Unfortunately, the new restaurant is boring as hell. So plain...

The new and un-improved Planet Hollywood restaurant in Las Vegas. Sad.

The original was funky-cool and interesting inside and out. I sure hope that I can find some photos I took of it. Because this? =yawn=

After walking through the Planet Hollywood casino, the hotel was easy to photograph...

The Planet Hollywood hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Surprisingly boring for the Las Vegas Strip.

Maybe one day I'll confirm Columbus and find a photo of Washington, D.C. so I can rebuild my Planet Hollywood fan site. There's precious little information on the internet that I can find about this once great chain of theme restaurants, so it seems only right that somebody remember them online. Heck, they don't even have a list of former restaurants on Wikipedia!

Until then, I'll just put my photos in an extended entry so I'll know where to find them when I need them.

→ Click here to continue reading this entry...

   

Miss Jackson, If You’re Nasty

Posted on Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Dave!Like most of the world, I'm a big Janet Jackson fan. So when a friend from work asked me to fill in for him... and the job came with his ticket to see her Metamorphosis tour... I did not need much convincing. Sure I'd be headed to Las Vegas in August, which is essentially a hellscape of sweat, heat, and sunburn... but, hey, JANET JACKSON!

The good news was that she burned through a massive number of her best-loved songs, so you were sure to hear some of your favorites.

The bad news was that in order to keep the concert from being six hours long, most of the songs were abbreviated or worked into a montage. This was perfectly understandable and mostly fine, but for my very favorite songs I was left wanting more. Especially on When I Think of You, which is such an awesome fun song to hear live.

If there was a problem with the concert, it wasn't the performance... it was the venue. The Park Theater stage is massive. It's absurdly wide. Because of that, Janet was completely overwhelmed by any attempt to fill up the space. Janet Jackson and her music is larger than life. But on the stage she just looked so tiny. A lot of time was spent trying to find her. Like here, where she's all the way to the left...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Most of the time she was with dancers though, which made her easier to spot...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

And of course they had giant screens on either side of the stage so you could get a good look from anywhere in the theater...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

But looking at the stage? Yeah... unless you were on the floor, good luck with that...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Most of the show was really quite good. Janet put her all into her performance from start to finish. Not that there weren't some bizarre parts. At one point they brought a guy on stage, tied him to a chair, then had Janet and her dancers run their hands all over him...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

She had plenty of costume changes to keep things interesting...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Assuming you could see the costumes when the lasers were trying to fill up the theater to keep things interesting for those of us in the cheap seats...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

The Rhythm Nation section of the show managed to get everybody on their feet...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Until it was time to close out the show...

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Janet Jackson in concert at The Park Theater in Las Vegas with lights ablazin'

Good night, Miss Jackson.

Oh... interesting aside here... Hello Kitty has her own pop-up food truck cafe now...

Hello Kitty Pop Up Food Truck Cafe in pink.

And that's a wrap on my last night in Las Vegas. Stay safe, kids.

   

Impossibly Vegas

Posted on Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Dave!With work and Janet Jackson complete, it was time to fly back home. Yeah, it might have been nice to add a couple days vacation and relax by the pool or something, but Vegas is very different when you're alone as opposed to when you're hanging out with friends, and I'd rather just go back home to my cats (no offense, Vegas).

When I landed on Tuesday, my work hadn't gotten a hotel arranged for me yet. This is not entirely unusual for Vegas where pricing changes based on occupancy. Charities try to save money wherever possible, so waiting to see if there's a deal on a mid-week stay is just being responsible. Since I couldn't leave the airport until I knew where I was going, I decided I might as well have lunch. Burger King was right there, so I decided to see if they had the "Impossible Whopper" available. This plant-based burger is apparently the closest thing to a real burger. I dunno about that (I haven't eaten meat in 33 years, 3 months, and 24 days) all I know is that I do enjoy a good veggie burger.

Funnily enough, the wrapper says "100% BEEF" on it, so they kindly put a sticker on it to let you know that they didn't accidentally give you a meat patty...

A Burger King Whopper hamburger in a wrapper with an Impossible Whopper sticker on the front.

Sure enough, it looks exactly like a Whopper...

A Burger King Impossible Whopper hamburger.

The taste is fantastic. Not sure it's worth $7.89, but I liked it a lot and would gladly order it again.

When I ordered, the lady at the register asked if I was "vegan" because apparently they cook the Impossible Burgers on the same flame grill that they cook their meat burgers. I guess if this bothers you they can microwave it or something? All I care about is that a cow wasn't slaughtered on my behalf, so I had no objections.

After loving the burger, I researched how it was made.

The original was wheat-based. The new "2.0" version is soy-based (making them gluten-free, if that's your thing). This is nothing special, as there are plenty of burgers that are soy-based. What makes Impossible Burger so good is that they use "heme" as an ingredient. From what I understand, "heme" is the red-red component of blood that captures oxygen and is responsible for giving meat its meaty flavor. Obviously they can't use blood in a veggie burger, so they are manufacturing their own Franken-Heme in a laboratory by genetically engineering yeast to have a soy hemoglobin. They then extract the plant-based "heme" from the yeast and that's why their burgers are impossibly good.

So... if you're hardcore non-GMO, then this is not the burger for you.

It totally IS the burger for me, however, which is why I had another one before I flew home, this time with cheese...

A Burger King Impossible Whopper hamburger.

   
And that's that. My plane leaves in and hour and then it's good bye Las Vegas.

But before I go, a look at what makes Vegas so totally Vegas...

My hotel room? $30. The stupid-ass "resort fee?" $35. Why the fuck they don't just be honest and charge you $75 for a room is assholery at its finest. Especially since the "resort fee" is just a scam. It includes access to the fitness center (who the fuck cares?), phone calls (doesn't everybody have a mobile phone now?), and internet access (which I could get for free by tethering to my phone). So, basically, we're paying $35 for nothing. But that's Vegas for you.

Until next time, Sin City.

   

The Apple Card

Posted on Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Dave!I'm just going to put this out there... I had to think long and hard about getting the "Apple Card" credit card because the bank behind it, Goldman Sachs, is a fucking piece of shit. They have been plagued with scandal and are run by assholes. Why in the hell would Apple pick them to partner with? And why in the hell would I touch anything to do with Goldman Sachs?

Well, it's Apple. And the card has some compelling features I wanted to try out.

And I just wanted to have one of the things. There's no fees and it's laser-etched titanium, for heaven's sake...

Except you can't really do much with it. Apple says it scratches easily and shouldn't be stored in anything leather or denim or it will discolor. YOU MEAN LIKE MY WALLET OR MY POCKET? WTF?!??

Not that it matters. You only get a pitiful 1% cash back when you use the physical card. If you buy something with your card via Apple Pay on your phone, you get 2% back. If you buy anything from Apple or Uber using Apple Pay on your phone, you get 3% back. Which is all so unimpressive. I'd rather use my WorldPerks Card or my Alaska Air Card because I earn airline miles, and that's more valuable to me.

There is a unique Apple benefit for the rewards though. Whatever money you get back is added to your Apple Cash daily... immediately after your payment clears! Nice! Most banks make you wait until the end of the month. Like Amazon. But with the Amazon Card I get a whopping 5% back on Amazon purchases, so I ain't complaining.

Applying for the card is a piece of cake. I did it right from my iPhone Wallet in minutes. Next thing I know, I've got a digital Apple Card that changes colors based on my purchase categories...

So... what did I buy to try it out?

Last night I decided to buy one of the gorgeous prints from The Night Sky. You pick a date, time, and place and they draw a constellation map of the sky at that moment...

I picked the night my mom and I were looking at the Milky Way when we were in Zimbabwe, which is the last trip we took together...

Zimbabwe Night Sky Milky Way

The text from my star map... ACROSS THE MILKY WAY AT DAVISON'S CAMP... TO MOM WITH LOVE FROM DAVID... THE NIGHT SKY... HWANGE NATIONAL PARK, ZIMBABWE... 23th SEPTEMBER 2014... 19.0137 degrees South, 27.3105 degrees East.

To Mom with Love from David was what I wrote in all the souvenir photo books I made for her after our trips, so I thought it was perfect for my print.

The Night Sky accepts Apple Pay via Apple's Safari browser, which means I get 2% cash back on my purchase. With that in mind, I ordered it framed. Sure it doubles the cost, but sometimes you just gotta spend money you don't have for something that will mean the world to you...

If you pay in full at the end of the month then you pay no interest. And here's the weird thing... Apple actually wants you to pay as little interest as possible. When you make a payment they have tools to show you how the amount you pay affects the interest you're charged. That's a very nice feature that seems insane considering every bank on earth is trying their best to gouge you for absurd interest charges.

Apple Card will send you a payment reminder notification, which is great, but I wanted to have my total balance automatically paid from my credit union checking account each month. I am not going back into credit card debt if I can help it. I also don't want to put any more money than I have to into Goldman Sachs' pockets. Fortunately, that's easy to set up...

There are numerous tools on the iPhone app which help you to track your spending, assist you in figuring out where charges come from, report disputes, and get immediate assistance. They also have some smart security features to help minimize credit card theft and fraudulent charges. This is the future of credit cards and I am impressed with what Apple has done here. Very impressed.

The first thing I did when I got the card was click the "message us" link for customer service so I could reject the arbitration clause. Forced arbitration is an abhorrent condition of card ownership which is 100% evil... and obviously comes from the pig-fuckers at Goldman Sachs. I'm surprised that Apple would have a card attached to their name which has forced arbitration, but I guess it's easy enough to get rid of if you know you must get rid of it...

If you want to know how to reject arbitration on your Apple Card... and why you should absolutely do it... here's an article at The Verge for you. And don't forget to do it at your very first opportunity so the scum-sucking bottom-dwellers at Goldman Sachs can't fuck you over more than they have already fucked over this country and everybody in it.

So let's sum things up, shall we?

PROS:

  • Laser-etched titanium, baby!
  • No annual fees, no late fees, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Really cool budget, finance, and security tools built-in.
  • Seamlessly integrated into iPhone and Apple Wallet.
  • Cash-back rewards paid daily.
  • Easy to apply for within Apple Wallet... approval in minutes.
  • Pay any time or easily set-up recurring payments.
  • Apple promises your data will never be sold (assuming you can trust Goldman Sachs).
  • Full MasterCard benefits, like free ShopRunner 2-Day shipping (where available).

CONS:

  • You're in bed with the detestable fucking bastards at Goldmen Sachs.
  • Pretty titanium card is easily damaged.
  • Only works optimally for merchants accepting Apple Pay
  • Cash-back rewards are pathetically anemic.
  • Forced arbitration as the default.
  • No option for cash advance.
  • No sign-up bonus of any kind.
  • Interest rate APR is not much better than other cards (12.99% to 23.99%).
  • Only available to iPhone users.

Ultimately while I love the idea of having an Apple Card, it likely won't get much use. The best reward you can get is 3%, and that's only with Apple & Uber. Everything else is 2% or a pitiful 1%. This is insane. I can get 5% back if I buy my Apple products from Amazon using my Amazon Card! Another reason I'm likely not going to use it is that I don't want to contribute wealth to the gaping asshole crooks at Goldman Sachs. They are a blight on humanity with their many scandals, and the significant part they played in the financial crisis is rage-inducing. I remain flabbergasted that this is the bank that Apple decided to partner with. It's just so utterly mind-boggling and shitty.

But how cool is laser-etched titanium?

UPDATE: I got a notice that my big $2.40 was deposited. Boy oh boy. Whatever will I spend it on?

APPLE CASH: Your First Daily Cash from Apple Card has arrived!

   

Hell of a Day, Isn’t It?

Posted on Monday, September 9th, 2019

Dave!Back in the late 80s when my friend Doug and I were in Kauai, we looked at a map (yes, this was before Google Maps because I'm old) and saw a massive beach on the Western side of the island called "Barking Sands" and decided to go. Little did we know that Barking Sands Beach is a part of the Barking Sands Naval Base, home of the Pacific Missile Range Facility. We were (of course) halted at a fence and told to turn around and vacate the premises. Then were told that there was a public beach north of the facility if we wanted to go there. It was called "Polihale Beach" and we decided it was better than nothing after having driven all the way across the island.

If you look at it on a map, you can see what the deal was...

A map of Kauai showing how our condo in Wailua is on the other side of the island from Barking Sands Beach... and how Polihale Beach is north of Barking Sands.
Map From Google Maps

Problem was... our map was pretty vague about the area. We ended up taking a very wrong turn and ended up headed inland. When we tried to turn around using a drive into a sugar cane field, we were met by a guy with a gun who told us to get the hell off his property.

And so we did. Quickly.

Just one of many bizarre misadventures we we got into on that trip.

Once we got back to the road we needed to be on, we eventually spotted a road that looked like it maybe kinda possibly wouldn't get us shot... so we headed to the beach. This was an undeveloped off-the-beaten-path situation, so once we saw water we just pulled off the road and parked in an area where it looked like we might be out of the way.

This Google Maps satellite image may or may not be where we actually ended up, but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about...

A map of Polihale Beach showing the possible access road and possible parking area up off the beach.
Map From Google Maps

After parking, we headed to the beach.

Just as we turned the corner, we ran across a couple who had attempted to drive their rental SUV ONTO THE BEACH.

Needless to say, they immediately became stuck. Then they made things worse by slamming down on the gas pedal, which only dug the car deeper into the sand...

A map of Polihale Beach showing the possible access road and possible parking area up off the beach.
Map From Google Maps

Apparently they didn't get the memo on why you don't want to drive on sand with a vehicle not designed for that purpose.

As we approached we saw that a woman was seated in the passenger side of the SUV fuming. A man was attempting to dig it out with a frisbee. A futile effort if there ever was one, because the SUV was sunk up to the floorboards. The only way he was ever going to get off that beach would be if somebody parked off the beach with a winch and pulled him off of it.

As we passed, the guy looks up at us and says "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And Doug was all "Um. Yeah." Because the only thing going through both of our heads was how we were going to escape if this guy asked us to help him dig his car out. But he never did. So we walked up the beach, which was quite nice. Beautiful golden sand with turquoise waters and hardly any people...

A photo of gorgeous Polihale Beach with pretty water and a looming cliff in the distance.

One of the (many) things I love about Google Maps is that you can literally pinpoint where I took the above shot...

A satellite view looking down at Polihale Beach with pretty water and a looming cliff in the distance.
Satellite View From Google Maps

It's not a great beach for swimming thanks to the waves, which were rough, but pretty to look at otherwise...

A photo of gorgeous Polihale Beach with some people far off in the distance.

I did not take a photo of the guy digging his SUV out. This was before the days of being able to sneak a shot with a mobile phone, and I really didn't want him to get pissed at me for exploiting his misfortune if I were caught... so I restrained myself. In the shot above, he is just to the left out of frame.

Wow. These shots I took really are from the 80's. Just look at that film grain when I zoom in...

A closeup of Polihale Beach with massive film grain.

Anyway... After twenty minutes of bumming around, we walked back to our jeep. The guy was still there attempting to dig the SUV out. A part of me wanted to ask if we should call a tow truck for him when we got back to civilization, but I didn't want him getting more pissed than he already was. Instead we took a long loop around him. We were on vacation, after all. If he had shouted out to us as we walked by, we absolutely would have called AAA for him (or whatever) but, well, you know...

Once we made it back and climbed into the jeep, Doug turned to me and said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" And then we both laughed our asses off because we're mean that way. But, hey, at least we know better than to try and drive in sand, amirite?

Fast forward to a couple years later. The movie Total Recall had just come out. It featured a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up in a cab being driven by a robot. After some confusion as to how he got there, the Johnny Cab robot says "Hell of a day, isn't it?"...

I don't know if Doug was with me in the theater when I saw Total Recall. I'd like to think that he was. He probably was. Or maybe he wasn't and I talked to him about it later after we had both seen it. I honestly don't remember. What I DO remember is laughing my ass off when Johnny Cab said "Hell of a day, isn't it?" Because that's exactly how the guy digging out his car said it. The people in the theater probably thought I was insane, but it was damn funny in a "You Had To Be There" kind of way.

Over the years, every once in a while when we saw each other, one of us would inevitably say "Hell of a day, isn't it?".

Last week I ran across a story about a car that had been driven out onto the beach, then abandoned in the face of Hurricane Dorian because it got stuck...

A photo of a red SUV stuck on the beach while waves crash around it.

After it was discovered, social media happened. Because of course it did. Then #JeepWatch2019 took over. The meme was popping up everywhere...

A guy labeled NEWS REPORTERS is ignoring a woman labeled HURRICANE DORIAN and staring at a pretty woman labeled JEEP ON THE BEACH as she walks by.

The Joy of Painting artist Bob Ross is adding a red SUV to a painting of a beach while saying LET'S ADD A HAPPY LITTLE RED SUV.

Rose and Jack from Titanic on top of the beached car which is now sinking into the North Atlantic Ocean.

Now, as you can imagine, the minute I saw this my first instinct was to create my own meme and text it to Doug...

A photo of a red SUV stuck on the beach while waves crash around it... and I've added the text HELL OF A DAY, ISN'T IT? to the bottom.

Except I couldn't.

It took me a minute to remember that Doug is gone.

That's one of the worst things there is, isn't it? Having a shared experience that only one other person on earth could possibly relate to... but for them to no longer be around to share it with? Not even the guy who was trying to dig his SUV out of the sand with a frisbee that day can possibly know what it that moment was to us. My writing this long-ass blog entry can explain what happened, but it's not the same as having lived through it. There was only the two of us.

And now there's just one of us.

And while it's a funny memory for me, knowing that I will never again have that one person to laugh about it with is a weight that came crashing down on my like a ton of bricks. And it's weird, isn't it? How I never heard about a car getting stuck on a beach when it could have meant something hilarious... but now that it can't, I'm probably going to be hearing about it happening all the time? Because isn't that the way these things go? Maybe it's just how The Universe likes to dick with us. Or maybe it's how our brains like to dick with us by noticing things only after they've become more hurtful than hilarious? Heaven only knows that a Google Image Seach for "Car Stuck on Beach" sure turns up a lot of photos of it happening.

Today I found out that they were finally able to rescue that SUV from the beach after the hurricane passed. I still have no idea how the guy at Polihale Beach, Kauai ever managed to get his SUV off the beach.

Jeep

Hell of a day, isn't it?

   

Bullet Sunday 630

Posted on Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Dave!I can't believe the weekend is already gone! But all is not lost, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• FAKE FOOD! Like many large cities, Tokyo has several districts which specialize in various goods. If you want to see electronics, head to Akihabara. If you want Western fashion and high-end restaurants, you need to go to Ginza. That kind of thing. One of my favorite places to look around is Kappabashi Street, which specializes in restaurant supplies. Pots, pans, dishes, utensils... and a staple of Japanese restaurants... fake food. Because most all restaurants have their windows filled with representations of the dishes they specialize in so people will get their mouths watering and want to come inside. Most of the plastic foods you can buy here in the US are crap, whereas in Japan it's a true artform...

Yes most of the stuff has a bit of a high-gloss sheen to it, but once it's wrapped in plastic to keep it from getting dusty it's pretty darn realistic. The above video is a fascinating look at how it's made.

   
• Goose. After a long time of reading about it being "released in early 2019," Untitled Goose Game is finally here! The object of the game is to be a complete asshole, which is something I can totally do...

I blazed through everything in just one morning, which is disappointing, but it's a pretty fun game otherwise. Nintendo's eShop has it on sale for Switch at 25% off for a limited time.

   
• Drugs are Bad, Mmkay? This commercial where the girl takes off her seatbelt and runs her car into a dumpster so she can get more Vicodin? More disturbing than any horror movie I've ever seen...

   
• X-Pan I had no desire... none at all... to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix. For one thing, it's the capper of a slew of shitty X-movies, after which Marvel will be bringing the X-Men to the MCU and completely rebooting it to (hopefully) something that doesn't suck. So it's essentially a wasted effort and makes no difference. And, if this hilarious "honest trailer" is anything to go by, it's a pile of shit anyway...

Maybe if it shows up on Hulu or HBO or Disney+ or something I'm already paying for, I'll invest my valuable time. But buying or renting it? Not even a little bit.

   
• Name. An interesting article: Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren't "Hard," They're "Unpracticed"

My first "real" international trip was to Japan in the late 80's for work. In Japanese, the "V" in my name doesn't exist as a sound. The closest they have is a "B." And yet they made an effort to say the "V" as best they could, even though it was a struggle and unnatural for them. That kindness has never left me, and I feel incredibly blessed that I learned how important a name can be so early in my travels. Which is why I try my very best to listen when I hear names and put my every best effort into pronouncing them correctly.

So many times I've had co-workers, friends, and people I meet who have "difficult for English speakers to pronounce" names who will say their name... then follow it with "But you can call me..." and give either a completely different "English" name... or some butchered version of their name. Whenever I can, I've asked about their actual name, worked with them to get an acceptable pronunciation, then ask if they mind that I use their real name. And the result is always the same appreciation that I felt that first trip to Japan so many years ago.

Your name... whether it's yours by birth or the name you've chosen for yourself... is key to your identity. Endeavoring to respect a person's name by listening, working to pronounce it, and saying it with your best effort, is such a small thing, really. But it means so much.

   
• Emmys. I do not watch the Emmys. The television I like is rarely represented, so I just don't bother. That being said, I do read the results the next day and have some thoughts...

  • DRAMA: The fact that Game of Thrones can take the big prize seems odd given what a pile of shit the final season ended up being, but okay.
  • SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: That being said, Peter Dinklage 100% earned that Emmy for his performance in the final season. He elevates any material to new levels, and this was no difference.
  • LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA: This was kind of an absurd category because winner Billy Porter from Pose was about the only one who I felt deserved it. Maybe Jason Bateman from Ozark, but Billy owned this and I'm glad he won.
  • COMEDY: I would have taken Fleabag, Barry, Russian Doll, or Schitt's Creek... but was secretly hoping for Schitt's Creek. Yet... not the least bit upset that Fleabag took the prize.
  • VARIETY: I am really torn here. Yes, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver deserves tons of recognition. But overlooking The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is really a tough pill to swallow. Trevor is killing it every night.
  • LIMITED: I would have liked if When They See Us won because A) It deserves awards, and B) It deserves attention. But Chernobyl was incredible. So good. I ended up watching it all the way through twice because it's such a powerful story.
  • DIRECTING: That being said, Ava DuVernay should have gotten the Emmy for best director when it came to When They See Us. Oh well.
  • COMPETITION: I was very happy to hear that RuPaul's Drag Race won this. It is, by far, the most entertaining of all the nominations.
  • LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY: While I would love for Catherine O'Hara and Natasha Lyonne to get recognition for the incredible work they do, Phoebe Waller-Bridge earned this one for Fleabag.
  • LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY: I'm thrilled that Bill Hader took the Emmy for his work on Barry! The show is 100% bananas in the best possible way, and his work there is just above and beyond.
  • SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY: I simply do not get the appeal of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as I find it neither funny nor entertaining. But Alex Borstein definitely does a fantastic job in the show, so I'm kinda torn on this one. I would have preferred that Kate McKinnon won for Saturday Night Live, however.

   
• SNUBBED! A few nominations that should have been made...

  • Ricky Gervais for acting and/or writing After Life. I am still a bit shocked he got no recognition at all for this one.
  • Tracy Morgan for The Last O.G.. That show is hilarious, and his performance is fantastic. For either to get some recognition is not out of left-field.
  • While I'm not sure The Good Place deserved all the nominations it got, I am sure that D’Arcy Carden should have gotten nominated for Supporting Actress, Comedy... AND WON IT. This is criminal.

   

And... I'm spent. See you in a week with more bullets.

   

Cook, Baked, Done

Posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Dave!In one of those "I'm surprised but not that surprised" situations, I awoke to the news that Thomas Cook has shuttered operations. If you're in the US, you're probably thinking "You mean those little places at the airport where you can exchange money?" And the answer is... not really. I think money exchange places died over a decade ago when ATMs became universally available. No, the Thomas Cook in this case is the world's oldest travel company. They've been wracked with financial problems for years, hence my lack of surprise...

An announcement from Thomas Cook's Twitter feed saying that they have stopped trading with immediate effect.

   
Well-known in Europe, I've actually used their services couple times, but I've never flown their airline. Sadly, a lot of people do, and they now have no way of getting home. Estimates are at 150,000 people stranded. If this sounds familiar, it's because WOW Airlines shut down back in March which stranded a bunch of people too. Or maybe you're thinking of Primera Air or Germania, both of which shuttered in 2018.

Surprisingly, I've never been in a situation like this.

Sure I've been temporarily stranded several times... mostly due to weather... but not once has the airline said "Sorry, we're closed for business, good luck getting home!"

As I watch the crazy number of reactions on social media... or the pandemonium videos that inevitably pop up from airports... I always try to put myself in the same situation to imagine how I would react.

The answer is inevitably... "Meh."

I'm single and nobody relies on me for anything. Even when my mom was still able to be left alone for a while at home, I could always call one of a half-dozen people to look in on her. Right now I've just got my cats. And so long as I could call a sitter and have them add food to their automated feeder, water to their fountain, and empty the Litter-Robot when it gets full, they're good. Sure work could be a challenge, but I could do most everything remotely for a while.

So, no, I would not be one of those people in the videos screaming "BUT IT'S MY HONEYMOON!" or "WHO WILL FEED MY BABIES?!?" or "I HAD BETTER NOT FUCKING MISS THE SEASON PREMIERE OF MAGNUM, P.I.!"

Well, okay, that last one could be me, because I love that show so much but, even then, so long as I have internet, I can just stream all my shows.

My "plan of action" would likely be to call up a hotel immediately so I had a place to stay, keep calling until I find a room, then head to the nearest bar and get completely shit-faced while I wait for the initial storm to blow over and I can make other travel arrangements. Yay, a vacation!

That being said, I really do sympathize with people who have pressing responsibilities back home... or no room on their credit card to book a hotel and new flights. That would be awful, especially if you're in a foreign country.

And if Magnum P.I. was premiering, which is does in four days on September 27th on CBS!

   

Enter the Snowman

Posted on Monday, September 30th, 2019

Dave!When I drove over the mountains on Saturday the weather was pretty harsh. Snow was really coming down, and it was sticking to the road... in September! Guess it's a good thing I got new snow tires put on, though I would have been okay without them. The snow was evaporating as soon as you drove over it.

Coming back home today promised to be a much different experience because the weather had turned beautiful again...

Driving home with sunny skies and snowy scenery.

Oddly enough, Washington State doesn't require you to carry chains until November 1st. I've got mine in my trunk already, of course. Last year they ended up being required for a trip over in December, which was the first time in a decade I've had to use them. If this snow keeps up, I'll likely be using them again this year.

Such are the perils of living in a winter wonderland.

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New New Orleans

Posted on Monday, October 7th, 2019

Dave! New Orleans is my favorite American city...

...to visit. I don’t think I could ever live here, because the heat and humidity would do me in. I dunno. Maybe I could eventually get used to it, but I do not handle sweating non-stop very well.

Yesterday on the plane I tried to count up how many times I’ve been to The Big Easy. My first trip was in 1983 for a DECA convention when I was between my junior and senior year in high school. It was my first trip outside of the state by myself. And I mean really by myself, because my chaperoning teacher couldn’t make the trip. New Orleans is probably not the best place to be 17 years old and totally unsupervised, but I lived to tell the tale. And here I am on my 11th... or maybe 12th or 13th... trip to New Orleans. It’s hard for me to remember all the trips I took before I started a record of my travels at Blogography (yet another reason to keep blogging, I suppose).

Dinner last night was at Coop’s Place...

The sign for Coop’s Place which features an Alligator drinking a glass of wine and licking his lips.

This is one of those dining establishments which makes me feel sorry for people eating here who don’t know what to expect. The food is excellent, but everything else is a bit rough around the edges...

The bar at Coop’s Place, which looks pretty much like every other dive bar you’ve ever seen.

You’ll be eating your veggie burger when all of a sudden a group will ask their server if they can split the check. Then you’ve got the server screaming “HEY! DO WE SPLIT CHECKS HERE?” And everybody in the establishment will then scream out “FUCK NO!” or just “NO!” If they’re being nice about it. And you can expect the same treatment any time you ask for anything special or even think about hassling the staff. They are simply not here for it. Which is part of the fun, I guess. I was here to eat, drink too much, and watch The Saints game on Coop’s battered old CRT television...

Looking up at the old television which has The Saints football game on. Everything is a bit grunge-looking.

Every time I eat here, I am shocked that I don’t end up with some kind of food poisoning from eating mayonnaise that’s not refrigerated and has been sitting out in a warm bar all day, but I never have...

A bar top with four kids of hot sauce and other condiments, including a bottle of generic mayonnaise.

My veggie burger at Coop’s Place... looking delicious next to some HEAVILY seasoned fries.

I ate and drank too much considering I had to work this morning, but that didn’t stop me from walking down Bourbon Street as I made my way back to my hotel...

The madness of Bourbon Street at night... people acting crazy and having fun under the neon lights from the signage.

The glowing neon sign for Willie’s Pizza with a glowing Willie’s Chicken sign behind it.

A woman about to fall on her drunk ass as she embraces the madness of Bourbon Street at night.

The madness of Bourbon Street at night... people acting crazy and having fun under the neon lights from the signage.

The Hard Rock Cafe New Orleans, all aglow in neon lights as people walk by.

I then worked on my presentation materials until I fell asleep around midnight.

And today it was a brand new day. I had set my iPhone to wake me at 6:30am so I had time for breakfast before work. I was surprised that the alarm actually woke me until I realized I am still on Pacific Time, so it’s 4:30am to me. Oh well. It was a glorious morning out, so I decided to take a stroll before eating. Jackson Square was beautiful as always...

Looking at St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

Zooming in with iPhone 11 Pro’s telephoto lens to see the creamy morning light reflecting off St. Louis Cathedral...

Looking at the cathedral of Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

And here’s using the amazing wide-angle lens...

Looking at the cathedral of Jackson Square which looks a slight creamy yellow in the morning light.

That wide angle lens is just so nice when shooting in a city. Here are some comparisons between what I can capture without it vs. with it...

An artillery canon monument from the standard camera lens.

An artillery canon monument in wide angle.

Cafe du Monde from the standard camera lens.

Cafe du Monde in wide angle.

Interesting to note that new wide angle lens has prompted apple to add planar adjustments to the editor in Photos. It’s very cool, assuming you have enough image to work with. Not so cool if you don’t...

The Apple Photos editor showing a distorted view of St. Peter’s Cathedral due to the wide angle lens.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough image for my desired crop, so the top of the church is cut off.

That could be fixed by switching to a square or vertical crop, however, so still... pretty darn cool.

After 20 minutes of exploring my New Orleans morning, I headed to Restaurant Stanley for my second-favorite Bananas Foster French Toast in the city, which was phenomenal, as expected...

Bananas Foster French Toast with a scoop of ice cream and some banana chips on top.

Alas, then it was time to head to work. But I got to walk down Bourbon Street on my way back, which is a very different scene in the daylight hours...

Bourbon Street in the daylight... looking abandoned and freshly-cleaned.

But it’s nice to see some of the amazing signage there in good light...

A sign for the Olde NOLA Cookery... with a crab chef and fishing boat plus the words AUTHENTIC NEW ORLEANS CUISINE underneath.

Then it was time for work.

And now I’m waiting on two work meet-ups this afternoon before this trip is officially a wrap!

See you on the West Coast next time, sports fans!

   

Old New Orleans

Posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Dave!Having been to The Crescent City many times, I know how crucial it is to pack minimum 2 changes of socks and underwear and 3 changes of shirt every day. When the heat and humidity makes you sweat like I do, anything less is just being irresponsible.

Work yesterday ran me pretty ragged and I had been eating all day long, so my ambitions for dinner were low. I made my run to Cafe du Monde and that was all I needed...

Beignets... square donuts caked with way too much powdered sugar.

When I sat down to eat, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that something was wrong. Something had changed. After a minute I realized that the painting “It seemed like an ordinary day, until I had coffee with Jesus at the Cafe du Monde” which had been hanging on the green-stripes wall was missing. Just a blank spot there now...

Inside the Cafe du Monde where there is indeed a blank spot where the painting used to hang.

I’ve blogged about the painting and how much I like it two or three times now...

A painting of Jesus standing in front of St. Louis Cathedral while people are at the Cafe du Monde.

I asked at the counter and all they would say was that it had “been moved to a new location.” I hope that’s the case, because I will be sorely disappointed if some religious zealot asshole complained and they had to take it down.

Then I just wandered so I could take a few photos with my iPhone 11 Pro to see how it handles things when the light is fading. And to play around with that magnificent wide-angle lens, of course...

A photo of a beautiful New Orleans building with wrought iron railings and massive ferns hanging on the balconies.

This time a wide-angle photo of a beautiful New Orleans building with wrought iron railings and massive ferns hanging on the balconies... with people in the street in front of and around it.

St. Louis Cathedral at dusk.

A wide-angle shot of St. Louis Cathedral at dusk as seen through Jackson Square with its beautifully manicured lawn and greenery. A statue of Jackson on a horse is in the middle of the park.

A beautiful gold-covered statue of Joan of Arc, which was a gift to New Orleans from the people of France. A French flag can be seen on a pole behind it.

Statue of a woman in brass sitting on the edge of a fountain with a painting of New Orleans behind it.

St. Louis Cathedral at dusk sitting behind Jackson Square with beautiful green lawns and a statue of Jackson on a horse in the middle.

Another shot of St. Louis Cathedral at dusk with a lovely green glow on the sides of the building.

An old cement building with a pointed roof which has been converted to a bar (of course) and it awash in a neon glow.

A yellow building with a spooky purple glow coming from the balcony where a skeleton monster is peeking out and there’s a spider in a giant web hanging over.

Alas, I’m old now, so I was headed to my hotel just before 9:00. I was past my limit of sweating for the day and didn’t feel like drinking my way into a coma. Sure it was an early night, but I got a great sleep in, so it’s all good.

This morning was spent in bed working. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to enjoy my air conditioned hotel room until they kicked me out. I am on my last pair of underwear and socks, so going out and having nothing to change into after sweating through my clothes was the last thing I wanted to do (you are welcome, people on the plane sitting next to me).

With three hours to kill, I decided to have a leisurely lunch at Attiki. They have a fantastic falafel wrap, which sounded all kinds of amazeballs. Then I couldn’t resist one last stop at Cafe du Monde for dessert...

Beignets at Cafe du Monde, covered in entirely too much powdered sugar.

This time I had a guest...

A pigeon scrounging around the floor of the Cafe du Monde looking for something to eat, I’m guessing.

A pigeon scrounging around the floor of the Cafe du Monde looking for something to eat, I’m guessing.

After second lunch, I stopped by the Hemmerling Gallery to ask about the painting that used to hang in the Cafe du Monde (which I mentioned above). They told me his painting was moved across the street to a general store owned by Cafe du Monde. They also told me that the painting was inspired from when Bill was sitting at the Cafe du Monde drinking a coffee and a man sat down at his table who looked like Jesus. This scared him, so he got up and moved to another table, finished his coffee, and left. As he was walking away, he started feeling bad about the way he had acted, so he went back to apologize. But the man was gone. As he was walking through the square, he saw the man again sitting on a park bench. He sat down and tapped the man on his shoulder and asked him if people tell him he looks like Jesus. When the man turned around, he had the most beautiful face Bill had ever seen. He went to his preacher and said he thought he met Jesus at the Café du Monde... then painted it.

So I walked back to the store and, here it is. So sad they moved it from its rightful place at Cafe du Monde! Mystery solved though...

The Bill Hemmerling painting about seeing Jesus at the Cafe du Monde.

And now I am waiting for my shuttle to the airport for my flight home. Hopefully we land in Seattle early, because I’ve still got a long drive ahead of me after the flight.

And there are cats at home waiting for me.

   

Gone New Orleans

Posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Dave!I had no work yesterday, but my choices were either a very early flight or an early evening flight. I probably should have taken the early one, but I would still be on Pacific Time after only one day in The Big Easy, so I made the easier decision.

Though, if I'm being honest, the real easier decision would be to add an extra day as vacation. But that would have been on my nickel, so there would be none of that.

As an up-side, it was a pretty sunset as we took off... and... there were sweeping views of the causeway which spans the entirety of Lake Pontchartrain!

A pretty sunset in reds, yellows, and oranges out my plane window.

Looking out an airplane window at the bridge which spans Lake Pontchartrain.

I've actually driven it once. It was nice. And buggy. My windshield was entirely covered with dead bugs by the time I got to the other side.

Before takeoff, the plane captain announced that the mountain passes were a mess, so anybody heading East (like me!) might want to check on things before leaving the airport. Well I did, and ultimately decided I'd rather handle the snow and ice in daylight, so I stayed on the westside last night.

Then, early this morning, it was time to brave the mountains.

Except... it wasn't a big deal at all. The roads were completely clear. Just pretty scenery, as usual, for this time of year.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

Driving through the mountains with snow-covered trees all around.

And now what I'd really like? Potato salad! Which is why I stopped off at the store to buy some luxury potatoes and sour cream.

My dinner is going to be better than your dinner.

Unless you're in New Orleans having beignets at Cafe du Monde. There's really no topping that, is there?

   

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