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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

   

Dave18

Posted on December 31st, 2018

Dave!For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As customary, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.

As you can imagine, 2018 was the worst year of my life so far. Just surviving it feels like a major accomplishment. All I can do is hope that 2019 is better.


JANUARY

• This year was largely about my cats and the hijinks they got into. So... no change from last year...

Jake the Statue

   
• Found out that Google thinks I look like Ryan Reynolds when I have the right haircut...

Dave Photoshopped to be using a Flowbee hair cutter.


   
FEBRUARY

• Another year, another traumatic trip to the vet for Jake and Jenny...

Vet Visit Two Point Oh

   
• Saw the best movie of 2018: Black Panther.


   
MARCH

• Finally bought into the SONOS smart speaker ecosystem...

Sonos One Speakers


   
APRIL

Said good bye to long-time blogging friend Kelly "Hot Coffee Girl."

   
Took my new macro lens to The Keukenhof in the Netherlands...

Macro Flower

   
Another day of Keukenhof wonderment at macro level...

Macro Bee

   
• Finally made it to lovely Budapest...

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

Budapest at Night from Buda Castle

   
• Finally made it to lovely Vienna...

Klimt at the Belvedere Palace Museum


   
MAY

• Returned to St. Louis and its Gateway Arch...

Gateway Arch St. Louis

   
• Headed to Jefferson City to hunt ghosts at the old Missouri State Penitentiary with Coal Miner's Granddaughter and the Tennessee Wraith Chasers...

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

Ghost Hunt Weekend at Missouri State Penitentiary

   
• Jake gets a new favorite toy...

Jake and Moose the Mule

   
• Saw another amazing P!NK show in Seattle...

P!NK !!!

   
• Had to rescue another bird from my savage kittehs...

Catio Bird Rescue!

   
• Started organizing my souvenirs from around the world...

XXX


   
JUNE

• Spent my weekend building a flower bed in my front yard...

Flower Bed Construction

   
• Upgraded Jake and Jenny's catio with a ramp and a massive climbing pole...

Catio Pole Installation

   
• Had the worst day of my life when I said good bye to my mom...

Mom and Me

   
• Remembered my many travels with mom...

Travels with Mom

   
• Took a look back and wrote about The Elephant Out the Window...

Mom, Mickey, and Me


   
JULY

• Wrote about finding inspiration amongst the heart-crushing tragedy of dementia...

Travels with Mom

   
Built my cats an indoor feeding station...

Cat Feeding Station!

   
• Another trip to Maine... this time with a torrential flood of rain.


   
AUGUST

• Saw an amazing show by one of my long-time favorite bands, Erasure...

Erasure Seattle 2018


   
SEPTEMBER

• Installed a mesh network with Google WiFi.

   
• Remembered back to the AIDS crisis, which wasn't that long ago.

   
• Flew to Salt Lake City to catch a show by The B-52's, Boy George, and Tom Bailey with Marty from Banal Leakage...

The B-52's

   
Wrote an obituary and buried my mom when her marker finally arrived from the VA...

XXX


   
OCTOBER

• Was gutted when Jake got seriously ill...

Jake Hospital Visit

   
• Had to make a short one-day trip to Hawaii and back...

Oahu North Shore Beach

   
• THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT! THE RED SOX WIN THE PENNANT!

Dave Loves the Red Sox!


   
NOVEMBER

• Was forced to remodel my remodel.

   
• Remembered my trip to Antarctica on my one year travelversary...

Neko Harbor, Antarctica


   
DECEMBER

Back to Maine again.

   
Happy birthday, Mom...

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska


   
And there you have it... my 2018 year in review.

Thanks once again to my cats, family, and friends for making life bearable through the not-so-great times.

Here's to a better 2019, everybody.

   

Snow Day Home

Posted on December 26th, 2018

Dave!Driving in the snow and ice is not that tough if you have experience and good tires.* I've been driving in this stuff for decades and my tires (which I originally purchased for my mom) are the best money can buy... so not such a big deal.

What is a very big deal is other drivers on the road. A significant portion of which are total idiots and raging assholes.

They drive too fast for conditions. They drive way too aggressively. They follow too close. They don't pay attention. They pull out in front of you. They cut you off. All of which is bad when the roads are perfect and dry... but when they're covered in ice and snow? Disaster. You may be able to drive in the stuff, but your ability to do so safely depends on how others are driving.

I was fairly lucky on my way home today. Had a dumbass pull in front of me once and had somebody following way too close, but it was a pretty easy drive because the plows were out keeping things clear.

Here's a short 30-second video of me at the top of the pass...


Music by Ikson

Fun stuff.

And now I'm home safe and sound where I have two cats who are very happy to see me.

Though Jake is slightly more interested in the snow that's been dumping down in buckets. After making sure it was really me, he bolted outside to watch the flakes fall...

Jake in the Catio Looking at Snow

And that's that. My last trip of the year.

   
*Want to know what is tough to drive in? Slush. Especially deep slush, which can easily suck you in and pull you off the road in a heartbeat. I'd drive in just about anything before I'd drive in slush, and 90% of my driving horror-stories have slush involved.

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Christmass Eve

Posted on December 24th, 2018

Dave!Apparently squatting down to apply and remove chains to my car for the drive over the mountains yesterday worked some muscles I haven't used in a while... because my gluteus maximus is all kinds of sore today. Guess I need to look into assercize or something like that. Or, I dunno, just exercise at all maybe?

And speaking of chains...

Yesterday after I made my way through Tourist Town, there's a sign before you head into the mountains advising you as to road conditions and closures and such. If the roads are impassable, there's also an arm-block that drops down to keep people from going any further.

This was the sign which warned me that chains were required over the pass... 21 miles ahead.

Some people decided that they didn't want to wait 21 miles and were pulling over to apply chains for driving on bare roads. Since the roads were bare, everybody with chains was driving way too fast. And so... chains were flying off tires and being busted to shit left and right. Which meant that some people wouldn't have chains for the pass and would be ticketed if caught.

Welcome to the hazards of winter driving.

But it was worth it to spend the holidays with friends...

Christmastime

Bring on the jolly fat man!

   

Bullet Sunday 493

Posted on December 23rd, 2018

Dave!Let the yuletide merriment begin... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Chain Me Up! My drive over the mountains this morning took 3 hours and 40 minutes instead of the 2 hours and 15 minutes it usually does. Partly because traffic was insane, but mostly because chains were required and the max speed was 30 mph. You'd think that my frequent drives over the passes would mean that I've had to chain up a lot. But that's not the case. The last time I chained up was over a decade ago because my studless winter tires have been sufficient. Other than slowing things down, the chains themselves are no big deal. I bought these easy-wrap "chains" a few years ago that are crazy simple to apply...

This was the first time I used them and it was a total piece of cake. So much easier than the old-style chains that are a nightmare to apply and ride so rough.

   
• Google Trips! When I last looked at Google's answer to TripIt, I was not impressed. Now? Pretty darn impressed...

This is an ideal arena for Google to play in, and I'm absolutely going to give it a shot in 2019.

   
• Ad Man! I do love me a good ad. Especially when it's so wonderfully inclusive as this one...

Way to step it up, Macy's!

   
• Roxette! After Pretty Woman was on for the hundredth time, I had Alexa play Roxette's Must Have Been Love from the soundtrack. It's a beautiful song and was responsible for my buying the Pretty Woman CD. Much to my surprise, the Must Have Been Love that played was different than the one I was used to, having the lyrics "And it's a hard winter's day" instead of "And it's a hard winter's day"...

At first I thought that they must have changed the line to make it a Christmas song, but it turns out it's the other way around. It was originally a Christmas song and was altered for the Pretty Woman soundtrack. The more you know...

   
• Super Intelligent! There are some articles that make their way around the internet in cycles. They'll find you. You read them. And then every time they come around you read them again. One of my favorite articles like this is The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence by Wait But Why. It's all at once very exciting and terrifyingly scary.

   
• Dyson! One of my favorite science fiction concepts has been beautifully imagined by Kurzgesagt...

This is quickly becoming my favorite YouTube channel on the internet.

   
Happy Christmas Eve Eve, if you celebrate that kind of thing!

   

Seventy-Four

Posted on December 19th, 2018

Dave!   
Happy Birthday, Mom.


   

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

Mom Climbing Glaciers in Alaska

   

   

   

Homeward Tuesday Bound

Posted on December 4th, 2018

Dave!Originally I was to fly home on Thursday. This "buffer time" was in case weather caused me to arrive late or there was a problem at work that delayed my leaving by a day or two. Well, there were indeed problems at work (we started four hours late) but, fifteen hours later, I was free.

Exhausted to the point of feeling like my brain had melted. But free.

So instead of waiting until Thursday night to fly home, I rebooked my return trip for tonight. I lost my premium seat, but I'll take getting home two days early in a coach seat any day.

After two days without sleep, I managed to sneak in a four-hour nap at my hotel before they kicked me out. Then there was a 45-minute drive down to Portland for dessert for lunch...

Apple Crisp

Followed by shopping for new Dr. Pussum's Organic Maine Catnip toys that my cats go crazy for...

Cat Toys

And, no, I decided against buying a President Trump toy. If Jake and Jenny want to play with something like that, they can dig in the litter box.

The remaining 100 miles to Boston Logan International Airport blew by in two hours and... viola... here I am flying home... TWO DAYS EARLY! Can you believe my luck?

Sure I'll get home after midnight and still have to go to work in the morning, but still... home.

   

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