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How Now Tasty Bao?

Posted on 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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Paine, Thievery, and Little Packages

Posted on 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.

   

Miss Kitty Gold

Posted on 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.

   

And Then There’s Sleep

Posted on 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?

   

Home is Where the Layover Is

Posted on 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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Bullet Sunday 500

Posted on 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...

   

Neon Refrigeration

Posted on 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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Snowmageddon Las Vegas

Posted on 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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No Frills Air

Posted on 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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Photo Wall (Stairwell Edition)

Posted on 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

   

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