Friday, December 22, 2006
But I have to admit, it's a bit different around here now. After 3 months I finally got used to having her around, and now it's a bit quiet around here. (Though I have a ton more space, now that I look around.)
Hmmm... no more hearing her cell phone go off at 6am while I'm trying to sleep. No more hearing her up until who knows how late in the morning before going to bed. No more piles of junk around the apartment that aren't mine. :) Ah... good times.
Now it's time for Christmas excitement. Saturday is a pretty slow day actually, I don't think I have anything of any sort of importance going on. Then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities are ready for fun. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday morning it was time to do some research. I look at the DayQuil box and what do I see, they have actually CHANGED one of the active ingredients that is supposed to solve all the sinus congestion. How dare they?!
Now for your education moment... if you have read nothing else, read this and learn...
DayQuil, as with most other over-the-counter cold medicines, used to contain Pseudoephedrine which does an amazingly good job at clearing sinus congestion. However, as the most unscrupulous world of illicit drugs also learned, is remarkably easy to break down into Methamphetamines. Thanks to recent legislation within our fine US Congress, laws to help restrict the sale of products containing Pseudoephedrine were incorporated into the not-so-aptly named 'Patriot Act'. As a result, most manufacturers have reformulated their cold medicines to replace the Pseudoephedrine with another less-easy-to-turn-to-meth alternative called Phenylepherine (also in a much smaller dose). This is the ingredient now found in DayQuil among others. I'm all for getting rid of bad drugs if there's a reasonable substitute, the problem is, Phenylepherine doesn't work! Several studies have shown Phenylepherine to be no more effective than a placebo at alleviating sinus congestion. WELL THAT'S JUST WONDERFUL! I might as well swallow a sugar cube when I have a stuffy nose... probably tastes a lot better.
As a result, yesterday I made a stop at the local Rite-Aid to look more closely at the cold medicine shelf. Looking at the boxes, most of the easy-to-find stuff is all using the new Phenylepherine. If you look hard enough though, for example, I found that there is another version of DayQuil called "DayQuil Sinus" (seems redundant to me), but infact, it's essentially the same as the regular DayQuil, but instead contains the ill-fated Pseudoephedrine. WAHOO! So I grab a box and take it to the register. Not so fast. The forementioned Patriot Act now mandates that ALL sales of products containing Pseudoephedrine require the purchaser be logged and limited on how much they can buy. As a result, it takes me 5 minutes while the kind, yet slow and not very computer-literate, cashier basically takes all the information off of my driver's license and enters it into the register. It's easier to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels than a bottle of DayQuil! However, I made it out with relative ease. Took the DayQuil Sinus and within 20 minutes, the runny nose was gone and I could breathe free and clear.
The moral of the story: KNOW what you're buying! Ask for the Pseudoephedrine by name! Know the differences! It's worth the extra trouble, especially when you're sick and the difference is between feeling better and being miserable.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
As for the musical, an excellent performance. Most of the cast was outstanding... the chorus was excellent, the leads were entertaining, with the possible disappointment of the actress who played Judy Haynes, who did not impress me at all. Not bad in general or vocally, but she was a bit sloppy on the dance numbers which really stood out next to the outstanding performance of the rest of the ensemble.
I have to avoid trying to compare this production to the movie, because the movie is an American classic, to which there just is no comparison. Though in short, as in any adaptation, various changes had to be made, in this case some of the minor subplots and edges were rearranged or changed to be more usable on the stage rather than the screen. But the overall story remained intact.
On the technical aspects, the sets were impressive. The orchestra was outstanding. Breaking down the rating:
Cast: 4 stars - no Bing Crosby, but who is?
Script: 3 stars - too used to the movie, hard to handle many changes.
Technical: 5 stars - great sets and lighting and everything else.
Music: 4 stars - All the classic songs, with a great orchestra to back it up.
Overall Rating: 4 stars. I'd see it again... actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Nothing really to complain about here... more than that, lots of good things about it. A holiday classic worth seeing. I can't give it 5 stars though, because I've seen better.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Not that it's surprising, but the weathercasters around here have absolutely no clue what they're doing when it starts to snow. Sure, they make it seem easy enough, cold air comes in from the north, meets the moist air from the south, in one of their favorite areas the "Puget Sound Convergence Zone", and just like Emeril would say... BAM!... snow. If only it really were as simple as they make it seem, perhaps it would actually stop snowing when they say it would. But no, this latest blast seems to have come out of nowhere and just appear.
The biggest question is, to go to work tomorrow or not. The official word from the office was "If Seattle schools are open tomorrow, Insightful is open tomorrow." Well, Seattle schools are closed... but that leaves a bit of ambiguity as to whether or not work is. I'll see how the roads look in the morning and if anyone else is going to work. I probably could make it to work with relatively little difficulty, but that hardly means much if there isn't anyone else there.
Alas, what an uninteresting blog today... but at least I put something here.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The show is finally good -- one problem: nobody knows this anymore, and no viewers means the show is doomed to end up in the land of lost shows. Apparently NBC has contracted it for 13 episodes and just bought 3 more for a total of 16. Usually that's a good sign, but the ratings need to increase if it's ever going to stay on the air as long as it should. The one thing going for it is that it's pulling in a very profitable demographic. It's a huge draw in the rich and well-educated audiences, which means big money from advertisers. That alone seems to be enough to keep it on the air through the season... it just can't seem to shake off CSI: Miami in the same timeslot over on CBS, which means it will probably get shifted out of Monday 10pm into some other slot (Wednesday perhaps). My guess is that if people who watched the pilot give it a second chance and watch it again now, they might have a more favorable view. Regardless, I think it's a show worth watching... especially for anyone who was a fan of The West Wing, or just likes a good dramedy. We'll see if it survives... but if you haven't watched it yet, I recommend it. At least throw it on the Tivo or DVR and keep it around when you can't find anything else good on TV.
On my way to work yesterday morning I felt bad for several people:
1) The city worker standing in about 8" of water on the street corner trying to clear a clogged storm drain, while it was pouring down rain.
2) The construction workers doing their normal work on the Fremont Bridge, out there in the pouring down rain trying to get things done.
3) The garbage man who was out in the rain, but that's not too extraordinary, because it rains 3/4 of the year probably. But...
some idiots in my apartment building thought (or rather didn't think) that if they just set 4 mattresses down next to the garbage dumpsters the garbage man will take them away. Well, the garbage man cometh, he empties the dumpsters, and lo and behold, the mattresses are still there. Of course, the mattresses have gone from 4 mattresses down by the dumpster to 4 very wet and nasty mattresses down by the dumpsters. The sad thing is, considering how relatively ineffective the latest building managers around here have been, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes weeks before someone does something with those mattresses. It wouldn't bother me quite as much if not for the fact that the dumpsters are right next to the garage door, and I drive by them constantly, nearly running into them. Stupid people.
In other news... I want the holidays to be here. November is such an uneventful month. Once Halloween is over there's nothing festive until Thanksgiving, then it's officially the holiday season. What I'm really looking forward to though is Christmas music. I could complain now... and people just say "well, why don't you just listen to Christmas music now?". That's crazy. You can't listen to Christmas music too early, otherwise you get sick of it before the holidays are over and that would be a tragedy. This begs the question, when is too early? This is a complicated question. Previously I strongly claimed that you must wait until the day after Thanksgiving, the "official" start of the holidays. However, the Holidays Amendment of 2004 officially changed that rule to allow Christmas music anytime starting the week of Thanksgiving.
It's too early to change the rules again anyway... what do I look like, a flip-flopper?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Boy was I wrong.
If there was a genre of "classical musicals" this would firmly fit in. In fact, the original musical opened on Broadway in 1966. I usually enjoy the classic musicals, just as I enjoy most of the more contemporary musicals. It includes several classic tunes such as "Hey, Big Spender" and "If They Could See Me Now", but even the music couldn't save this show. It's hard for me to dedicate even much time reminiscing of this musical, other than to express my extreme disappointment.
My first warning should have been that the theatre was probably 1/2 to 2/3 empty. The 3rd mezzanine was almost completely empty, and probably most of the people in the theatre were actually season ticket holders who had nothing better to do. I have never been to such an empty performance at the Paramount.
The show was plagued with 15-minute long song and dance numbers (which shouldn't be surprising considering the original production was choreographed by Bob Fosse). I nearly fell asleep a couple of times, which is very atypical for me as well.
At intermission I considered it a 2-star performance on my rating scale... I should have left at intermission, the second act was only worse... overall it rates as a lonely 1-star out of 5. I would not recommend it, nor voluntarily go see it again.
On a related rant, some would argue that there should not be courtesy applause after a poor performance. I actually believe that courtesy applause is only customary at the conclusion of a show. Good or bad, the actors who performed are doing a service and should be applauded for their performance. HOWEVER... there is NO such thing as a courtesy standing ovation. If the conclusion of the show doesn't make you want to spring to your feet and cheer, then don't. There are some people who rise to their feet with a standing ovation at the conclusion of nearly every performance, especially the bad ones. Tonight's show was no exception... though more annoying is the fact that most of those people seem to always sit in the 1st row. As a result, you have several other involuntary standing ovations:
1) standing because the person in front of you is standing and you can't see if you don't stand too.
2) standing because other people are standing, and if they're standing it probably means you should too.
3) standing because you're trying to get out as fast as you can
I REFUSE! It cheapens the impact of a standing ovation when it is overused. If you aren't compelled by the performance to leap to your feet, THEN DON'T! DO NOT BE TEMPTED!
Tonight was the perfect demonstration. At the conclusion of the show, a mild courtesy applause arose for the cast taking their bows, and of course, 4 people sitting in the row immediately in front of me stand in ovation. I refuse, but in a strange change of scenery, I glance to the sides and behind me, and most everyone else is refusing to stand as well. The result was basically everyone who was standing looked like idiots-- either idiots for standing at the end of a performance that obviously did not merit it, or idiots for believing that the performance actually did merit it.
RESIST THE COURTESY OVATION!
The conference I went to was actually far better than I expected. On Tuesday was an all-day tutorial on model-based testing. It was fascinating and actually very entertaining. My only complaint turned out to be a common trend among the entire week: the meeting rooms were a frigid 60 degrees most of the time. I must say, it's rare that I'm looking forward to the breaks so I can go outside and warm up in the sunshine. Regardless, after the day was over, I high-tailed it back to the room, to dump stuff off and headed to the park. Why not, eh?! Spent a fine couple of hours in the undercrowded park and then meandered back to the room for the evening. Slept much better the second night than the first... maybe I was more tired, or maybe it just wasn't a strange new place anymore.
Wednesday began the actual conference, which was basically a whole lot of 1-hour track sessions of which we usually had about 5 different sessions to choose from in any time slot. Various keynote sessions for the entire conference were at the beginning and end of the days, which usually ran from about 8:30am to 5:00pm. This proceeded most of Wednesday, Thursday and until Friday at noon. Some sessions were good, some were less good, some were worse.
That was the conference, or at least enough of it to care. On Friday I packed up and spent the afternoon and evening at the park, until I headed up to the airport to pick up Jonell who came down to spend the weekend with Heather. We went over to Heather's and spent the weekend hanging out with her. It was fun, we did a lot of driving around the LA area, getting lost and seeing where we ended up. Most of the time I didn't have my camera with me though, so no big picture festivity. But on Sunday we went to the Getty Museum in LA, which happens to be about 10 minutes from Heather's place. It was an amazing museum of lots of random artistic stuff. Pictures provided. Want to know more: www.getty.edu.
Sunday evening provided the setting for the celebrity sighting of the trip... we were at a burger place in Encino, and had just finished out dinner when who walks in to the restaurant? None other than American Idol celebrity judge Randy Jackson, along with his wife and son (we presume). And that's the best celebrity sighting I could come up with.
Sunday night came home, the plane touched down at midnight on Monday morning... and I came home and slept and did laundry to celebrate my birthday. Wahoo?
That's the story I've got for now. I'm sure there were things I was going to mention but forgot to... but oh well. You probably didn't care anyway. :)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
So on Monday I headed to the airport to go to Ontario (the city in California, not the province in Canada, duh), and everything went pretty smoothly. It's been my first trip through the airport since the latest security changes regarding liquids and gels, and as a result I checked most everything (toothpaste, etc.) that I would normally keep with me in my carry on. Except I forgot to check some chapstick that I keep in my pocket. Well, here's a useful fact: the TSA couldn't care less about chapstick. I took it out and showed it to the TSA agent and he gave me the "whatever, don't worry about it" look. Nice to see things aren't totally ridiculous. Of course, our pilot for our plane is one of those essential things you "don't want to leave without"... and ours was late because he was stuck on a ferry. Only in Seattle will your pilot be late to the airport because a ferry was delayed.
After that thing were rather uneventful until we made it to Ontario. After making it to the airport and waiting for a surprisingly long time to get my luggage, I went to get my rental car. I ended up with a maroon Mazda 3 hatchback, which I must say I am thoroughly unimpressed with. Of course, as a rental car I don't mind too much, considering it was only $170 for the week. Then I navigated the LA freeway system to make it to the Disneyland Hotel. All I can say is thank goodness for GPS navigation devices. I brought mine and it was the best thing I ever could bring.
At around 5:30pm I finally made it to the hotel and checked in. Now, this is the first time I have ever stayed in the Disneyland Hotel, for one main reason... I'm cheap. But since the company is paying for it and this is where the convention is, it was a nice deal. Without even requesting it, I got a room on the 8th floor of the Sierra Tower (one of three towers), right across from the elevators, on the side of the building that faces towards Downtown Disney. I couldn't have requested a better room. The windows open up to a mini-balcony from which I could look down at the ESPN Zone and the Rainforest Cafe, among other things, and see the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain in the distance at Disneyland. I recommend to anyone who ever has the opportunity to stay in the Disneyland Hotel to request the Sierra tower facing that direction, unless you have a problem with noise.. because Downtown Disney stays hopping until late into the morning and even with the sliding glass doors to the balcony closed, it's still somewhat noisy. I didn't mind it.
After I hauled all my stuff in, I left and walked through to the other side of Downtown Disney where the parks are. Knowing that I'm going to come back down to California for a wedding in February, I bought an annual pass (which was an excellent choice, especially considering this week has been a lot of evenings where I'd head over to the parks for a few hours here and there). In yet another in the series of firsts, I went to Disneyland by myself. I've actually heard mixed reviews of this, some people claiming it's nice because you only have to please one person--yourself. Others have said that it's not as fun when you don't have others there to share it with. I'd have to put my opinion somewhere in the middle. There are definite advantages to going around the park by yourself. Certainly just the fact that I tend to move pretty quickly around when there's somewhere I want to get to, and not having to slow down for people I'm with who, shall we say, are not so fast, is a nice thing. Also, I do what I want to do, and don't have to worry about what anyone else wants to do... this isn't such a huge deal though because at Disneyland I pretty much will go on any ride and am pretty easy going in that regard. Perhaps one of the nicest things--which I have fully taken advantage of--is the relatively recent invention of the "Single Rider Line". This really only applies to a few rides around, most notably Splash Mountain, but the concept is simple. Some rides have very odd seating configurations, in the case of Splash Mountain 6 people to a log. Disney has two very simple rules that they live by when placing people in ride vehicles: 1) Never split up a group, unless they are larger than a single ride vehicle. 2) Never combine separate groups in close quarters unless they have their own seat. OK, so the 2nd one is hard to put into decent words, but I'll demonstrate by example. On Space Mountain, the ride vehicles are 6 rows of 2 across. Now if there is a group of 3 and single rider, they will put the group of 3 in two rows (2 and 1) and put the single rider in a third row (1 only). They won't mix strangers up and put the single rider in with the extra from the group of 3. Space Mountain does not have a single-rider line because they rarely have a use for needing someone to fill out a car. Splash Mountain's logs of 6 individual seats are different though. Disney will happily put people in their own seats, so if a group of 5 comes along, the only way they can fill out the log is if they have a single rider, or else they'll leave the seat empty. Same thing with a group of 3 and a group of 2, or occasionally if they have several large groups at once (say, two groups of 4, but no groups of 2 around). OK, so the logic of this may not fascinate others as much as it fascinates me, but suffice it to say, there's plenty of use for single-riders on Splash Mountain. As a result, single riders can actually go in the exit and get in a special line (which by my experience, never had anyone in it), and get on the ride usually within about a minute, even if the regular line for the ride is 30 minutes or more long. It's a wonderful thing! (A side note: groups could use the single-rider line too, if they don't mind being split up all over the place.) So yes, after digressing about the advantages of going to Disneyland by yourself, I now will advocate for the other side. Going to Disneyland with other people is just plain more fun. There's something about wandering around with people you know and just having fun with friends that going by yourself can't beat. So in summary, going by yourself is fine if you have to, but I wouldn't plan to do so just voluntarily (though I may end up doing so in February if I can't find anyone else around who wants to go. HA!).
More details about the conference itself will be coming next, but it's currently 11:30pm on Thursday and I need to sleep. Pictures are also coming once I get to an actually fast internet connection. :) Until then....
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
15 names were called, including my own. We followed the bailiff down to the courtroom where we were led in in order, I was juror #9. We were introduced to the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, then Voir Dire began. They needed to turn these 15 potential jurors into 6 that would be on the trial. The judge rattled off her series of simple, obviously well-recycled questions regarding if any jurors knew anyone in the courtroom, had any problems being on a jury, had ever served on a jury before, etc. Nothing too alarming there. Then the prosecutor began with his questions, which took a swift turn towards any jurors who were involved or had a close family member involved in domestic violence. Suddenly we knew where this case was headed... or so we thought. I tended not to have much of a reason to raise my hand for any of the questions, until the question came "who enjoys lawyer shows on TV?" Well now we're talking, several of us raised our hands, to which I was questioned
"Mr. Roberts, what's your favorite lawyer show?"
"I enjoy the original Law and Order."
"Why do you like it?"
I didn't have a really good answer for this, but said "I like it for the characters".
The questions moved on to other people, but several additional times, questions came back to me about Law and Order.
"Mr. Roberts, do you think Law and Order is an accurate portrayal?"
"Haha, absolutely not, I think it's highly exaggerated."
"I don't think there can possibly be that much drama in the real world."
"So you won't be dissapointed if during my closing arguments there's no thrilling music?"
"No, I don't think so."
The prosecutor looked like a nice guy, though from the way he was stumbling through things, I think he knew what he was doing, but couldn't have been with the city prosecutors office for a terribly long time. Then, however, we moved on to the defense attorney.
Now I have to admit, looking at this guy, he looked like a cross between a used-car salesman and Donald Trump. I thought to myself this guy looks like a slimy, sleazy defense attorney like you see on TV. Of course, this was all on first impression -- I later came to find out that my first impression was 100% on the button.
Despite this impression, it took me just a few moments to realize--after noticing that after receiving the list of potential juror names probably just 10 minutes prior he had already memorized the names of all 15 jurors and would proceed to call each of us by name--that he was astoundingly good at what he did, and that the prosecutor was sorely outmatched. The defender asked his barrage of questions to the juror panel, but it quickly became apparent that he was really targetting the women on the panel trying to determine exactly which ones would be sympathetic to the victim and thus he wanted to dismiss from the jury. You really do notice by the pattern of questions the attorneys ask what they are looking for (both in jurors they want, and in jurors they don't want). I guess that's the point, but I never realized it would be so obvious.
After the questioning was over, the judge asked for challenges for cause, of which there were none. Then the attorneys sidebarred with the judge to request their peremptory challenges, where they can eliminate any jurors they wish for no reason whatsoever. Now, the first 6 jurors would carryover to the trial, and I was juror #9. So presuming I was not eliminated, if any 3 jurors above me were eliminated I would be on the jury. Seeing the preponderance of women at the top and the line of questioning, I was fairly certain I would be bumped up, unless I said something one of the attorneys didn't like. Sure enough, the judge listed off the 6 jurors who would be on the case, jurors 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10.
Without much ado, the other jurors returned to the pool, and the 6 of us took our seats in the jury box and the case began. This was the first we would hear the actual details of what this case was all about... the bizarreness of which we never would have expected.
The finer details of the case I will spare you, mainly because they are vastly irrelevant. But in summary, this crime was "violation of a no-contact order". The scene of the crime: the very courtroom where we were sitting, 4 months earlier. Apparently the defendant was in court for a similar violation brought on by his ex-wife. Immediately following the judges determination of "not guilty", he allegedly turned around toward his ex-wife sitting in the gallery and mouthed some not-so-nice words to her. If true, this would be a violation of the no-contact order between he and his ex-wife, which indeed was the question we were asked to consider.
Witnesses came forth, the prosecution attempted to prove a case based around inconsistent witness accounts, and just a lack of anything that could substantially prove the charge. Throughout the defense really didn't add much information in defense, but obfuscation was the order of the day. In later discussions with my fellow jurors, none of us really were swayed by this mess of confusion the defense was trying to cause, but I think it made him feel like he was doing something right.
Ultimately, after hearing the evidence and the arguments by the attorneys, we proceeded to deliberation. As much as I made it sound like there was no evidence, it wasn't quite as cut and dry as that. I think all 6 of us were doubtful who to believe, but I know as for myself, I came to the conclusion that I was pretty sure the defendant did what he was accused of... but there was definite doubt in my mind, enough so I couldn't reasonably consider him guilty of said crime. The one thing that was for certain to me was that this case was a collossal waste of the court's time, that probably never should have gone to trial. It wasn't a blatant disregard for the no-contact order, even if he did do what he was accused of... though the law may have dictated otherwise.
Regardless, it was definitely an interesting experience. I actually enjoyed it, but quickly realized that it was far more work than actually being at work. That's probably the one thing I wasn't expecting. It didn't feel like a waste of my time--quite the opposite, in fact, all 6 of us on the jury left making similar comments: everyone should serve on a jury, it's a valuable experience. Too bad the system tends to pick the same people over and over.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
In any event, this time I'm visiting the Seattle Municipal Court here in downtown Seattle. After my last jury service with King County down in Kent last year, I've been consistently claiming that jurors are treated like royalty because nobody wants to do it, and once they are here nobody wants to be here. Well in Seattle I must say it's no exception. I'm sitting here in the SMC Jury Assembly Room on the 12th floor (that's the top floor by the way, the jurors get the penthouse suite here) on 5th and Cherry. Huge floor to ceiling windows looking out South, West and North (not East, but really, who wants to look East from here anyway)-- some people would pay money to get a view this good. This building has to be one of the newer buildings around here, looking out the window I can see the much older King County jail and courthouse. We also have our own private outdoor terrace, and uh... well, we better enjoy it because for the next 3 days I'll be stuck here. :) Fortunately I have wireless internet access that does a splendid job of letting me pretend to be productive while away from work.
This morning has been so far uneventful... I haven't counted, nor are my powers of estimation very accurate, but I'd say there's probably 100 or so jurors serving this week. So far no jurors have been needed, so we're all still here waiting around. We can take a 15 minute break and leave whenever we want to... this building is right next to the Columbia Center (for those who aren't well versed, that would be the tallest building in Seattle, and the tallest building by number of floors  west of the Mississippi), so there should be plenty of interesting stuff around. Oops, I spoke too soon, they just called the first batch of 15... however I was not selected, so back to blogging. Lunch is from 12-1:30, I think I might take a walk down to Westlake Center (only 9 blocks or so), because the latch on my watch broke this morning and I need to get a new one. I know there's a Fossil store down there and hey, it's probably time to get a new watch anyway, I've only had this one for about 7 years or so.
I'm surprised they don't have a Starbucks stand in the jury room, that would be very Seattle of them. More updates later.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
It's Football Season
So what does that mean? Well, yet another year of Husky Football, for one. The Dawgs through some miracle are currently 3-1 overall. Somehow this team manages to win football games, though certainly not without some abysmal playing in the first half of most of their games. Those 3 wins are equal to the sum of the total number of wins in the past two seasons combined. All goes to show that there's light at the end of the tunnel for the Huskies. I marched the Varsity/Alumni game with the band, which was fun. All in all, just like everything else has been.
It's Curling Season
Yes, another curling season is getting ready to begin. My second year curling stands to be even more fun and exciting than the first. Today I helped at an open house at the curling club. I was teaching people how to curl, but so few people showed up it wasn't too much work other than just sitting around today. But there are at least 5 more open houses that I'll work at in the coming weeks, so I'm not too disappointed. Alas, the sport of curling's best advertising is when you see it on TV during the Olympics, and outside of that, you just have to be lucky enough that someone stumbled onto it in the newspaper or online.
I'll be curling in three leagues this winter, on Sunday, Thursday and Friday nights. As usual it will be a very busy time, but it's not like I have much else exciting to do most of the time, so it will be fun.
Shows and Concerts
This week was incredibly busy... somehow all my tickets lined up on the same week. On Tuesday night I went to see the musical "Bombay Dreams" at the 5th Avenue. I'd describe the plot, but I've since determined it was vastly irrelevant. The show revolves around the world of Bollywood in India, and Bollywood stars, and of course, bizarre Indian pop music. But it was entertaining, worth the price of admission, and without having much more to say about that, it received 3 out of 5 stars on my entirely-subjective, non-scientific scale.
Speaking of, I should better define my entirely-subjective, non-scientific scale which shall remain nameless until I come up with a witty and creative name for it.
5 stars - Amazing! Among the finest performances you'll find anywhere. Worth the price of admission, whatever the cost.
4 stars - Outstanding. Certainly not a disappointment, but I wasn't compelled to leap to my feet at the end of the performance.
3 stars - Entertaining. Nothing spectacular, but nothing disappointing either.
2 stars - I came. I saw. I left. Worth the price of admission, if admission were free.
1 star - Someone might like this, but not I. I wouldn't go back by choice, but not quite bad enough I'd get up and walk out.
0 stars - "Make it stop!" "Now there's two hours of my life I won't be getting back." Deporable. Nobody should be subjected to this.
Back to my week... on Wednesday night I went and saw the touring production of Wicked, the musical based on the book that is sort of a prequel to the Wizard of Oz. This show was absolutely amazing. This show had a 10 night run in Seattle and has been completely sold out for months, and there's a very good reason why. Absolutely one of the finest musicals I've seen come through town. An unconditional 5 out of 5 stars.
And last night I went down to Benaroya Hall for the Seattle Symphony's pops concert with all George Gershwin music. The highlight was the performance of Rhapsody in Blue with the guest pianist who was fabulous. The rest of the performance was also very good. This is a tough call on how many stars to give it... so I'm going to give it 4-stars. The Rhapsody in Blue performance was easily a 5-star performance, but the others were good, and didn't disappoint, though not as amazing. I need to reserve my 5-star rating, it just wouldn't be right to give it out too often. :)
With that, I've had enough to say now. There, I blogged, everyone who reads this happy now? Good. :)
Friday, September 01, 2006
This is good in principle, I suppose, if not a little creepy. Of course they do this by trying to match your shopping patterns up with similar people shopping on Amazon. Say Jimmy-Bob in Texas buys Season One of the West Wing on DVD, as well as a Black & Decker toaster. And say several other people do the same thing. Suddenly Amazon sees that I've bought The West Wing on DVD, and what do they start recommending for me? You guessed it, toasters. What does the West Wing have to do with toasters? About as much as Joan Rivers has to do with "natural beauty". But Amazon's magic consumer profiling algorithms will make the link and suddenly think it's all related.
The example I just gave was fabricated, yet typical of the types of things that happen. But to give a real example, Amazon also looks at what you buy, and recommends similar things that you might be interested in. About a year ago, I bought a new video cable on Amazon to connect to my TV. I just needed one cable and decided to buy it online since it was cheaper. Now, however, Amazon thinks I'm a connoisseur of fine video cables or something. Not a month has gone by where I didn't get an e-mail advertisement from Amazon for some cable (even the same as the one I already have, perhaps I need another?). When does the madness stop?
The big question is: does it work? Have I bought something on Amazon that I didn't realize I needed until Amazon pointed it out to me? Yes. I'm sad to say it's true. Probably for every recommendation that completely misses the mark, there are 3 or 4 that are dead-on accurate. I guess nothing's perfect, you just notice the few inaccuracies far more than the majority of the correct ones. And maybe -- just maybe -- it's time for me to buy a new toaster.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was probably the most thoroughly entertaining musical I've seen. The audience laughed almost non-stop throughout the over 2-hour musical. One indication of this should have been that in the original Broadway production the lead role was played by John Lithgow. Unlike most musicals which may mix some comedy along with dramatic scenes... this had no drama of the sort. Sure, some suspense I guess, but pretty much just non-stop comedy for the sake of comedy.
Hard for me to talk about a musical without actually discussing the music... the music was adequate. I didn't run out and buy the soundtrack when I left the theatre... but that's not to say it wasn't entertaining. There were a few memorable numbers, and one showstopper, but this musical isn't about the music. It's about the hilarious script and outstanding character acting.
In other less-exciting news, today I cleaned the bathtub, with a little help from my friends... the scrubbing bubbles. After at least an hour with a scrubbing sponge, I managed to make the thing sparkle. I didn't realize how nasty it was until I started cleaning it and found the clean white below. In fact, there were some marks on the floor of the bathtub that have been there since I moved in several years ago, and I had just assumed that they were part of the tub itself. Not so! They are gone now too! Now we'll just see how long it stays that way.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I receive a lot of interesting (read: junk) mail, but I usually don't mind too much. There's nothing more unsatisfying than going to check your mailbox only to find there's absolutely nothing there. I thrive on getting bills, advertisements, and the occasional actually interesting letter or postcard from a friend.
A few days ago I received a piece of junk mail unlike any I have ever received before. I'll include a few excerpts:
Dear Mr. Roberts,
Our records show that you haven't yet registered for the benefits of AARP
membership, even though you are fully eligible.
You need only return the form above. Please remove and keep the card
below as a record of enrollment. [card included with letter]
As a member, you'll have the resources and information you need to get the
most out of life over 50.
I look forward to you joining us. I think you'll agree withour other
members: AARP is one of America's very best values.
William D. Novelli
I've always wondered how these people get their data on who turns 50 and is eligible to be a member of AARP. Now I know the answer... dumb luck. While I'm honored to be invited, I think I'll do the world a favor and wait another 24 years until I'm eligible. I'm always a fan of discounts though, and they were kind enough to include a membership card with the letter clearly embossed with my name on it. Perhaps I can get some cheap eats at the IHOP, since I know very well from my parents that it's THE PLACE for the retired people to eat. :)
Or maybe not. And I thought it was only me who felt old sometimes...
Monday, June 12, 2006
My question is (as if you couldn't see it coming from a mile away)... isn't this just a Two Day Sale?! Or does Two Day Sale just not have the same ring to it that the fabulous One Day Sale does? One more thing to add to the files of marketing that doesn't make any sense to me.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
On to more important things... the newest television show to make its way onto the game show revival circuit, a gameshow of gameshows called Gameshow Marathon. 6 celebrity contestants compete in 6 different classic gameshows to crown one the ultimate game show champion.
The first episode of The Price is Right was pretty average... while I enjoy TPiR, it isn't exactly the most exciting thing to watch most of the time. I DVR it during the day and fast forward so I can see the 6 pricing games, but skip the Showcase Showdown and then just turn it off before the (not-so) Fabulous Showcases. The episode was OK... but I'm looking forward to better.
Fast forward to Thursday night's "Let's Make a Deal". Slightly more entertaining, though not exactly captivating. I hate to admit that Deal or No Deal has far more suspense than LMaD ever had. The highlight of the show was probably the Zonk prizes that featured Gilbert Gottfried in classic LMaD zonks. But yet again, despite the fabulous deals behind Door #1, Door #2 and Door #3, something was lacking.
On to last night's resurrection of the 1950's classic Beat the Clock. Now we're moving up in the world. It's amazing how such a simple show can be so entertaining. It was nice how they used stunts from the original show in this one. Entertaining.
Then tonight, we get the big money... Press Your Luck! I forgot how exciting this game show is... the revival might be even more exciting than the original. It was outstanding! Sadly the original host of PYL, Peter Tomarken, died earlier this year... and of course the original show was announced by the legendary Rod Roddy who died a few years back now. This show needs to be back on the air. There was a brief 2-season or so revival of the show "Whammy: The All New Press Your Luck" that aired on GSN a few years back, but it was abysmal in comparison.
The most amazing thing about all of these Gameshow Marathon revivals is the recreations of the original sets. The set designers for this show have done an absolutely amazing job recreating the exact same sets from the original shows, down to the most minute details (though most were obviously scaled down to fit within a smaller soundstage). Considering a show like Press Your Luck with such a distinct and detailed set that probably was dismantled and thrown away when the show went off the air 20 years ago... just amazing.
Now I am a huge supporter of bringing back classic game shows, but EVERY revival up until this one has significantly (and poorly) updated and changed the sets, and in most cases significantly changed the gameplay, from the original. It's no wonder the revivals never last more than 2 seasons. The original recipe was perfect, that's why the shows stayed on the air for so long in the first place. TV producers need to realize that, and I think they'll have instant hits on their hands.
What I'm really looking forward to is in 2 weeks the episode featuring the classic Match Game. I fully expect to see the classic orange shag carpet and gaudy 70's colors. The other nice thing is that they're briging back a decent celebrity panel, including the queen of game shows, Betty White who was a semi-regular on the original Match Game. This should be a show to end all shows!
A few other comments regarding the Gameshow Marathon format. First, host Ricki Lake. Not exactly my top choice (or even any choice) for a host, but she's doing a reasonable job. It's probably unreasonable to expect her to match the skill and talent of the original hosts who really defined the roles.
Now the celebrities... a bunch of B-list celebrities (or as some would say, perhaps C-list celebrities), including the 80-year old Leslie Nielsen, who seems to be bordering on senility... Tim Meadows, who hasn't done much of anything notable since leaving SNL... Kathy Nijimy, best known for her role in the Sister Act movies, but lots of other smaller comedic roles since... and well, other random people who aren't exactly showstoppers. I wonder if they actually tried to find some real celebrities to be on this show, or if they just assumed nobody would come. At least they're somewhat entertaining.
I guess that's the last of my ranting for now. Hey, I like game shows.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Fortunately for me, I had a relatively good experience at the airports. Not so for some of the people I saw elsewhere at the airports. The gate next to mine at DFW had an announcement similar to this:
4:30pm - "Attention passengers, we just want to inform you that the flight to New York that has been delayed by air traffic control will likely not be cleared for departure until 7:00pm. However, there are no spare gates and the airport is full, so we will be boarding the flight at 5:00pm and then sitting on the tarmac for up to 2 hours prior to takeoff. We just wanted to let you know so you can prepare for it."
Well, that wasn't me. So now I make it to San Diego, stop number 2 on my flight adventure. After having to walk outside from one terminal to another and then pass through security again, which was a pain in the neck, though I was switching airlines, so it's understandable, I then made it to my next departure to Seattle. The gate right next to me, another departure to Seattle that was scheduled to depart an hour and a half earlier than mine. Their flight was delayed because the plane arriving was delayed, and as a result my flight that should have arrived 1.5 hours after the other actually ended up arriving first. HA. At least the luck was with me.
But finally I'm home, reasonably adjusted to Pacific Time again. Time to upload the last of my pictures and get them all labeled. Vacation is a lot of work... where should I go next? :)
Once we had our fill, we headed downtown to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and museum. Quite appropriate considering Birmingham is often credited as the start of the US civil rights movement. This was another very interesting and well-designed museum, though no pictures because of their strict "no photos inside the museum" policy. I tried to figure out why exactly this museum had such a policy that so few of the other museums I encountered had. Now in general I don't find the need to take a lot of pictures of things in museums, because you really don't get much out of it later. If anything photos would serve as quality advertising of the museum and its quality. Perhaps it's out of a respect for the sanctity of the subject. Perhaps it would detract from the other patrons experiences throughout the museum. That may infact be the best reason of all, but my only detraction from the museum was the barrage of kids who would keep steamrolling through, paying little attention to the many displays and content that was there. But thinking back, what kid actually wants to read all of that? They want the interesting displays and interactive stuff. Fair enough... I guess anything they take away from it is better than nothing.
Following the museum we went on a driving tour of Birmingham. Lots of historic, old, new and interesting stuff to be seen everywhere. We drove past Rickwood Field, the oldest surviving baseball stadium in the country. Saw the buildings of downtown, and the fancy houses out in the suburb of Mountain Brook. Eventually came back and ended up relaxing back home where I was able to watch the series finale of The West Wing. (Hey, everyone has his priorities. :)) After that we headed out to dinner and came home. Fly home the next day and the vacation is over.
Monday, May 15, 2006
We headed out and had a stop at Sonic for lunch on our way to historic Lynchburg, Tennessee. What makes it so historic, you ask? Simple... the home of Jack Daniels Tennessee Sippin' Whiskey. Yet another tour of a distillery... after reading my blog you might think that I have an obsession with distilleries, and that surely if you've seen one you must have seen them all. Well, you're probably right on the second count. But they certainly are a sure-fire way to find something to do along your journeys. The tour of Jack Daniels distillery was unique in several accounts: first, it was by far the biggest, they turn out millions of cases a year. Second, it was by far the most obviously contrived and organized tour I went on... almost like an ad pitch more than anything else. And finally, the tour guide was both the worst, yet most entertaining tour guide on any of the tours I went on. He was unmistakably Tennessee, including every spiel he gave the tour group starting like, "Friends... this is the Jack Daniels distillery"... "Friends, how do you drink your Jack Daniels?" Personally, I think he had some Jack Daniels for breakfast that morning. A trained monkey could have provided the information about as well as he did, though he was definitely an entertaining fellow... until you asked him a question that you'd think a man giving a tour would know, but if it wasn't in his script he was clueless. Oh well, I guess that's one place you can't beat the small distilleries.
In any event, after that we were essentially on the road back to Birmingham with a stop at Huntsville, Alabama, also known as Rocket City USA. We visited the US Space & Rocket Center (also home of NASA's Space Camp). This included both the museum of the history of space flight, and everything surrounding that, as well as what I affectionately call the "Rocket Graveyard" where they have about a dozen old rockets from the early US space launches. We wandered around and visited everything, but not too much else I have to say about that I guess.
We got back on the road and made it down to Birmingham. Our original intent was to grab some dinner and head over to an outdoor shopping mall where the Birmingham Symphony was having an outdoor concert. But alas, we arrived to find out that the outdoor concert was cancelled due to inclement weather. I guess they thought it would rain, or they figured nobody would show up because it was sooooo chilly (I think it was about 65 or so... whatever people). So instead of that we headed over to the dollar theater. Every show $1, if you don't mind watching movies that were released 3-months ago. Enjoy a movie for $1, and have $6 small popcorn. :) OK, not quite like that, but they have to be making money some way, I guess. We watched The Pink Panther starring Steve Martin. I had originally wanted to see this movie when it came out but never got the chance, so what a deal. In this case, I'm glad I only paid $1 and not the $9 or so it would be back home. It was well worth $1, but I'm not sure how much more than that. It was a funny movie, but not so great. But of course, everyone else has probably seen it, so why do I even need to tell you that?
By then it was after 11pm and time to sleep. One last full day of Birmingham before I head home.
After lunch at Chick-fil-A we met up with Rebekah and headed down to Nashville. Nashville adventures began with the ginormous Opryland Hotel. We parked and walked in like we owned the place, the only way to visit a hotel you're not staying at and not get crazy looks from people. :) First of all, you stick a casino in the basement of this place and it would fit in perfectly on the Las Vegas Strip. Atriums everywhere under huge glass ceilings, waterfalls and rivers through the walkways, and unmistakable southern style. It was pretty hip (and gets quite the photo
dedication in my album).
Following that we got the driving tour of Nashville, driving by the Grand Ole Opry (which is right next to the Opryland Hotel), traversing music row where many of the big record albums are housed, and visiting the Parthenon.
Yes, the Parthenon... straight from Greece to Nashville. Someone had the bright idea to build an exact scale replica of the Parthenon right in Nashville, Tennessee. Why? You know, as much as I read all of the signs and historic information as I was walking around, nobody seemed to answer that simple question. I think the answer is an equally vague: "Why not?" After the Parthenon we dropped over to the Tennessee Capitol area of Nashville and checked out the capitol mall grounds and such. Nice, scenic, but the most interesting part was probably the 95-piece carillon that is at the far end of the mall. This supposedly plays "famous Tennessee songs" every hour on the hour, though we never were able to hear what it sounded like. Surely it was most excellent if it actually played.
Enough sightseeing, time to head downtown. We made it down to 2nd Avenue and Broadway, the music centers of Nashville. Had dinner at a brewery/restaurant that reminded me a lot of the Ram or Rock Bottom, but the food tasted much better. :) Being in the South, I had the obligatory chicken and ribs, which was quite tasty indeed. At least quite a bit tastier than I think I've had in recent memory back home in Seattle. But I also admit, I don't often go around craving barbeque in Seattle. But I digress... after dinner the nightlife of the clubs was starting to pick up, with quite literally live music coming out of every doorway along the street, from the restaurants, to the clubs, to even the ice cream parlor. We dropped by the Nashville Crossroads which is a smallish bar down on Broadway (supposedly pseudo-famous, though I am no country music afficianado, so don't ask me). A country group was playing there, playing a lot of music. Such as I don't regularly listen to country music, I knew few of the songs they were playing, but the music was still good. After an hour or so we hopped down to the ice cream parlor down the street, and had ice cream while listening to a solo guitar singer, who was also quite entertaining. We didn't stay out too late considering we had about an hour drive back to Clarksville, then had to get up early to get on the road again in the morning. Nashville was definitely the only city I came across that actually had things happening after about 5PM... I guess that means something.
A few days down the road and I'm back to update the last 3 days of adventures. I got out on the road in the rainy morning from Lexington and headed out bound for Clarksville, Tennessee. Rain, sun, rain, sun, rainsun, I made it to my first stop the historic (aren't they all?) Makers Mark Distillery. Managed to arrive there just in time for the first tour of the morning. By now, of course, I'm an expert on bourbon distilling, but fortunately this tour actually was interesting and had a bit more science and detail than the previous tours had. I also put on my John Ratzenberger hat once again and found the hand-bottling assembly line where the distinctive red wax dipped seal is placed on each bottle. The red wax being their trademark, the obligatory gift shop contained a wide selection of red-wax-dipped merchandise, most of which was actually rather cool. I also had my chance to dip my own bottle of Makers Mark bourbon to seal the bottle.
On the road again, this time stumbling across Lincoln's boyhood home which is really nothing more than a little falling-apart shack on the side of the highway. Stopped, took pictures, done. Next I came into Hodgenville, KY, which stakes claim to the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Museum in town was nothing to write home about (but writing on the internet about is apparently OK). The museum had about 12 scenes with wax figures of Lincoln throughout his life, and accompanying story to go along with it. Not glamorous, especially compared to the museums I have experienced earlier on the trip, but hey, it's history. Following that and a stop at McDonald's (the first, and I guarantee last such stop I will make on my entire trip, bleah) I ended up at Lincoln's Birthplace. This is the good stuff, probably because it's actually a national park and monument, and thus has real funding. The "symbolic" log cabin that he was born in (they don't actually know if it's the actual one, since it has been moved around so many times in its history, but they think at least part of it's legit) is enclosed in a huge marble building that is vaguely reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Interestingly enough, that building was built back around 1910, long before the actual Lincoln Memorial was built in the 1930's. The Sinking Spring (apparently famous, though new to me) was nearby along with the site of the Boundary Oak (the large oak tree that is often referenced along with Lincoln's birthplace, but died a few years back).
Next stop was Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of one of General Motors vehicle assembly plants (in fact, the plant that manufactures every Corvette made) as well as, to no great surprise, the National Corvette Museum. Now I have no great interest (nor small interest, for that matter) in cars whatsoever. As long as a car gets me where I need to go in an efficient manner, I don't care too much about the finer details. But I succumbed to the intrigue (and the need to kill some time) and went to it. My suspicions were confirmed, the museum was filled with quite the obsessive car crowd--people who love everything cars, especially Corvettes. Sure there were some interesting displays, and it was interesting seeing some of the older cars and the like... but that's about it. The engines and inner-workings of the cars, not the most interesting in the world to me. But I succeeded in killing probably an hour or so and was back on the road.
At this point came the difficult decision-- really need to kill more time because I'm way ahead of schedule, but what is there to do? Pulling out and scanning the AAA map of Kentucky I notice a marking for "Jefferson Davis Memorial Monument." It's reasonably on the way I need to go, why not? Off I go along the highway, and eventually see something that looks vaguely reminiscent of the Washington Monument in the distance. Now, I must admit seeing this in the middle of Kentucky farmland sure is a shock, but I was reasonably certain that this was what I was looking for. Made it out there and yup, sure enough, it's a monument to Jefferson Davis, complete with an elevator that will take you up to the top (for a small fee, of course, which I did not pay). Yeah, uh-huh, ok, time to go.
Rounding the turn and headed down to Clarksville where Andrew's sister Rebekah lives. I arrived and found her, Andrew would be about 3 hours later arriving, so I went with Rebekah to meet one of her friends at a local bar they go to. This bar is the definition of redneck, with a Harley shop across the street, and colorful, yet friendly people who frequent the place. We ended up playing pool for several hours, prior to heading back to meet Andrew at Rebekah's apartment. I have a renewed appreciation for Washington State's new smoking ban that keeps smoking out of bars.
Today's blog has been brought to you by: Parentheses... they make the world go 'round.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
As I was starting out to Louisville, I came upon the exit to go to Frankfort... and in the spirit of adventure, I decided to take a small detour. That detour to Frankfort turned out being far more interesting than anything I found in Louisville.
My first stop was the Kentucky Capitol building in Frankfort. As the rain continued to come down, I made my way to the ultra high-security building. The ultra-high security included a guard with a metal detector, which I only had to walk through because as I went in the door, I looked over to the side and the guard dude was like "oh, come over here".
I navigated through the crowds of elementary school kids touring the capitol, and found that it was remarkably similar to the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. The notable differences were that it was much more open and welcoming (far less security and closed doors than Olympia), and the House and Senate chambers were way up on the 3rd floor rather than on the main floor, that was rather odd I thought, but maybe that was just me.
After the capitol I dropped over to the Kentucky History Museum in downtown Frankfort. Another outstanding museum, this one very similar to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. But I've found myself a bit museumed-out as these all start looking the same after a while. Still interesting stuff. This one also had a special exhibit about flags, and the history of US flags as well as Kentucky flags. That was really interesting.
I almost decided it was time to head to Louisville, then changed my mind and headed to the north edge of Frankfort to visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery. A slightly different distillery tour than yesterday's tour of the Woodford Reserve, and actually still interesting. It's funny how each distillery claims all of the reasons why their bourbon is the best in the world. :) However, I actually did enjoy the Buffalo Trace a bit more than the Woodford Reserve. Does that mean anything? Probably not. The especially interesting part of this distillery was that several of the brands they make there are hand-bottled. This quite literally means that there is an assembly line of folks who fill, label, and package the bourbon. I felt like I walked into an episode of Made in America and that John Ratzenberger was going to walk into the room. Fascinating stuff though, that was probably the most fascinating part of the tour.
Finally time to get out of Frankfort, and I got back on the road to Louisville. My destination? The historic Churchill Downs racetrack, where just 4 days ago the 132nd Kentucky Derby was run. Little did I know that today was also a race day at Churchill, so there were lots of people around. Though I managed to get waved into a parking lot without having to pay, nice man who really didn't care much at the gate. Anyway, went on a "guided tour" of the track, which really consisted of going out and watching a race, which was fun. Then I explored the Kentucky Derby Museum which is on the ground of the track. Another well done, highly-interactive museum which I enjoyed. After a bit, I went back out to the track and decided it wouldn't be right if I didn't place a bet at Churchill Downs when I was there, so I did so. I fully expected to come away with a betting slip "souvenir" of my trip to Churchill Downs, but much to my surprise, my horse came in second, and I won the exacta, netting me a $6.40 profit which caused me to promptly return my souvenir for cash. Oh well, that's where I say "take a picture, it will last longer".
And so ended my day at Churchill Downs. By then it was after 5pm, which means the tourist world shuts down, but I still took the opportunity to drive downtown Louisville, explore a bit of the Ohio River and check out the monumental sky-high Louisville Slugger bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. It looks far more interesting inside the windows than it did from the outside, but I had a action packed day regardless. Headed back to the hotel in Lexington and here I am.
Tomorrow I'm off to Nashville. Plans to stop at yet another distillery, where I will test the famous mantra "seen one, seen them all", followed by a stop at Lincoln's birthplace and such. The rest is a mystery. You never know the mysterous powers of the brown signs along the highways.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The mission was to make it to the Woodford Reserve distillery, though taking the scenic route left us travelling for miles along narrow 2-lane roads through the Kentucky countryside. Horse farms, rolling hills, tree-lined highways are my view of Kentucky thus far. It would have been much nicer to look at, had I not been travelling along these narrow roads at 55 mph trying not to slow down traffic, gripping the wheel firmly each time an oncoming car whizzed past in the other lane.
After quite the adventure we made it to civilization and to a Dairy Queen in the middle of nowhere. Now it feels like we're in the Kentucky I've heard about. Nice country people, but be sure to speak loud and slowly, and you'll communicate just fine. :)
Finally we arrived at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Woodford County. We arrived just shortly before the 2pm tour which was starting, and had quite the entertaining tour guide. I've been on many winery and brewery tours in my past, but never a distillery. Apparently this is the best of all tours, and our tour guide wasn't in a hurry to get rid of us, as the tour lasted just short of 2 hours. Good thing people weren't in too much of a hurry. Definitely an interesting tour, but Amy and I couldn't figure out if that was just because we've been on so many wineries and breweries that the distillery was new to us, or if it was actually an interesting tour. Perhaps the later. I now could talk at length about how bourbon is made, but won't. Follow the pictoral tour in the photo album and you'll get the idea. The most interesting thing I learned is the answer to the question on everyone's minds... if the bourbon is too strong, how do you get it down to a consistent proof? People have speculated complex answers to this, but the simplest answer is the correct one. They water it down until it gets to the right alcohol content. There seems to be slightly more to it than that, but ultimately that's what it comes down to.
After a drive back to the hotel and dinner at Applebees, it's time to relax for the evening. Tomorrow I'm leaving the working Vault team here and driving over to explore Louisville on my own. At least that means I don't have to worry about them sleeping in until noon when I'm ready to leave. There are some advantages to travelling on your own, I guess!
Monday, May 08, 2006
Day 1 - Travel to Indianapolis was quick and efficient. The brief layover at Chicago O'Hare was just long enough to stretch my legs (and walk about a mile through the airport to get from one gate to the other) and then take off again. The flight from Chicago to Indianapolis was certifiably the shortest flight I have ever taken in an airplane. It makes the flight from Seattle to Spokane feel like an overseas flight.
The efficiency ceased the moment the plane touched down in Indianapolis. We arrived at precisely 8:30pm, at which point it felt like the entire airport was shutting down. All stores and food places were literally locking their doors, and then we realize that American Airlines has exactly 1 baggage crew working, with the task of unloading planes and delivering baggage to be claimed. As a result, my luggage was not in my hand until 9:45pm.
Luggage in hand I proceeded to my rental car, a lovely silver 2006 Hyundai Sonata. Nice car, so far it has served me well. I made it to West Lafayette by about 11:00pm, fortunately for me still being on Pacific time, it only felt like 8pm or so.
Day 2 - Scenic Indiana. Krista and I went to the Sunride Diner in Lafayette for breakfast, which was about as much of a diner as anyone would imagine. But accordingly, the food was great. We then took a walk around Lafayette and its historic places, which mainly consisted of its downtown historic district, and the old train station on the Wabash River. I must say, the water of the Wabash river looks about as disgusting as it possibly could. Not somewhere I'd like to go swimming.
We then went and checked out Purdue's campus and Krista's office and lab in the Chemical Engineering building. Pictures say much more than words, so check the photo album for interesting stuff there.
The afternoon consisted of adventures at Wolf Park just outside of West Lafayette. Wolf Park is a wolf education and research facility that has a couple dozen wolves, foxes, and coyotes. It was quite an interesting place, including demonstrations of feeding and handling the wolves. The main enclosure at the Wolf Park contains 7 wolves, which get fed a fresh (or sometimes frozen) deer 3 times a week. We were fortunate enough to view such a feeding, though the wolves were apparently not hungry at the time. Of course, Wolf Park doesn't have any trouble obtaining fresh deer due to the efficiency of Indiana drivers who hit them on highways throughout the state with great frequency. An additional feature of the Wolf Park is the wolf and bison demonstration, where as one might expect, they let loose a couple of wolves in their bison range where the bison and wolves are natural adversaries. Once again, on this day the wolves were in no mood to cause a ruckus with the bison, so not too much of interest occurred. But seeing the bison wandering around was definitely interesting.
After the adventures at Wolf Park, we went to the Tippecanoe Battlefield historic site. The only slightly-interesting museum was there, as well as the actual battlefield which is now a historic monument. The Battle of Tippecanoe was between the US and the Indians in 1811, which set the foundation for General William Henry Harrison's future presidency. After wandering the grounds for a bit, hunger set in and we headed back to Lafayette for dinner.
Dinner was good, then we went to Krista's and watched a movie, the 1938 Oscar winner for Best Picture, "You Can't Take it With You". A surprisingly hilarious movie that I would watch again, actually. Very entertaining. Sleep after the long day was next on the menu.
Day 3 - Off to Lexington - An early start to the morning had me on the road to Lexington, and into Cincinnati by about 11:00am. After exploring getting lost in the less-than-desirable part of the city, I ended up at the Cincinnati Museum Center, which is contained within the old Union Station. The highlight of that was definitely the Cincinnati History Museum. I have been to many quality history museums in my travels, but none as outstanding as this museum. First, it was huge, once inside it just kept going and going. Then, it was almost 100% interactive or 3-dimensional, or something interesting stuff to look at. Not just words on displays, but context and interesting stuff. An interesting exhibit about machining tools had a man who was demonstrating the working tools, and I proceeded to spend at least a half hour listening to him telling stories about the history of Cincinnati. That was the interesting stuff. Plus, it makes old men happy when you're interested in hearing their stories. All in all an outstanding museum.
Also in the Museum Center was the Natural History Museum. This was a good museum, but appeared to be a bit dated. It was geared much more towards children than adults, but did have its fair share of interesting exhibits.
After the museums, a driving adventure around Cincinnati took me to the Roebling Suspension Bridge, at the time it was built the longest suspension bridge in the world. After a quick drive across and back, I took a moment to snap some pictures of the bridge, along with the nearby baseball and football stadiums. Following a visit to the presidential birthplace of our 27th president William Howard Taft, off to Lexington I went.
I finally tracked Amy down and after we went to dinner, in this hotel room I am. Tomorrow's adventures may take us down to the land of the bourbon distilleries, or it may not. Who knows? We'll see how early I can wake these silly people up instead of sleeping until 1pm like they usually do.
Friday, May 05, 2006
There, now that I've scolded myself for not blogging more recently, it's time for a real update. We'll go ahead and pretend that nothing interesting has happened in the past 3 weeks, and start fresh. Today at about 3:00pm I officially left work and started my vacation. I'd like to thank my company for taking this week to remind me why I was going on vacation. Things were nothing but crazy all week long. But that is the last time I will think of work until the 16th, because I am now on vacation.
Tomorrow morning I will head to SeaTac and hop on a plane to scenic Indianapolis, Indiana after a brief layover in Chicago. From Indianapolis I shall begin what I will call "Joe's Great MidWestSouthern Adventure"! I'll spend the weekend in with my friend Krista who is at Purdue in West Lafayette, IN before I begin my driving adventure. The short version of my plan is to drive down to Lexington, Kentucky where my sister will be at the time, on a stop during her 6-month promotional tour for Coca-Cola. After a few days I'll continue on down to Nashville, Tennessee where my buddy Andrew will meet me and we'll spend a couple of nights at his sister's place. Following that I'll head with Andrew down to Birmingham, Alabama for the last weekend before I fly home on Monday the 15th.
What happens in the time between each of those checkpoints is still a mystery. Only the trusty AAA Tourbook knows for sure... and it's not telling. I'll endeavor to take a goodly number of pictures along the way and post them when I have the chance. Hopefully I'll have some interesting things to blog about!
Let the adventure begin.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Of course, over the course of the past 35 days, the Nissan dealer in Ballard that I took my car to originally has shut its doors and turned out the lights permanently. As a result, on Tuesday I will be taking my car up to Edmonds to get the repairs done, but for what it's worth, I don't mind too much. I'm just glad that they're finally going to take some ownership in their product and fix my car
It's nice to know that there ARE people out there who care about the consumer... the irony is that those people are NOT the ones in the consumer affairs department. Though the realization that Nissan does seem to care about having me as a customer afterall restores my faith in them, and I will once again consider getting another Nissan
... after my windows start working again.
Friday, April 07, 2006
My team's first game was last night, we won so we are currently staying in the A-bracket and playing tonight at 6pm. Unfortunately due to the luck (or fate, in this case) of the draw, we are playing against 3/4 of the team that won the 2006 US Mixed National Championship. Of course, it's a game and anything could happen... but I suspect we may be a bit outmatched in tonight's game. If we lose, we fall to the C-bracket and play sometime Saturday morning, but if we win things are pretty good, I think.
After this, not too much more curling to do, but it's getting sunny and nice out now so maybe I'll find new and exciting things to do outside.
No accusations, no excuses, just a guy who seems to be honestly looking into my complaint. THAT's what I call consumer affairs. Maybe there's a reason this guy is in the Executive Offices. We'll see... at least this guy didn't leave me frustrated when the call was over. Maybe Nissan can save their reputation with me afterall. We'll see.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
As an update to my previous reports regarding the defective windows in my Nissan Altima, after the "consumer affairs specialist" contacted me and told me Nissan would do nothing to resolve my problems, I sent a reasonably lengthy complaint letter to their headquarters in California. I must say, at this point I have resolved that Nissan really doesn't care about my satisfaction and going to do anything about it, my only real purpose is to make sure they know that they've made a thoroughly dis-satisfied customer.
After the frustrations with Nissan are all but out of my mind, what happens today? The SAME rep who called me the first time telling me that Nissan would do nothing about my problems, and had an excuse for everything in an attempt to convince me that my problem was not their problem, calls me again! For a brief moment I thought perhaps they had decided to own up to their problem... not so fast. No, this person had the courtesy to call me back and tell me that she "received my letter", gave me more of the same excuses that she gave me the FIRST time I talked with her, and informed me that Nissan has not changed their decision. My thought? WHY DID YOU EVEN BOTHER CALLING ME TO TELL ME THAT NOTHING HAS CHANGED?! Ridiculous if you ask me. She did say that she would forward my letter on to the "executive" level... which is really what the intent of the letter was in the first place. Put it in the hands of someone who actually should know how customers are satisfied or not.
One more thing to add to my collection of "examples of bad customer service".
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
CHECK CARD UPDATE
We reviewed our Bank of America Visa Check Card benefits and discovered that while some check card benefits are frequently used by our consumer customers, others are not. In an effort to serve you better, we have streamlined our consumer check card benefits to provide the services you use most.
With this in mind, we want to make sure you are aware of the upcoming changes to your Bank of america Visa Check Card benefits, effective July 1st, 2006. At that time, Bank of America Visa Check Cards will no longer provide: Purchase Security, Warranty Manager, Concierge Services, Price Protection, Purchase Security and Extended Protection, or Travel Accident Insurance. Current consumer benefits provided with your check card depend on your check card type.
Bank of America will continue to provide the popular benefits that mean the most to our customers, including:
[ long list of features they haven't removed ]
To translate and filter through the marketing-speak: "In order to serve you better, we're removing half of the benefits on your check card. Rest assured the remaining benefits will remain unchanged. No new features have been added." It's amazing how all it takes is a positive tone and suddenly a bad thing sounds like a good thing. How would that work in the real world? Let's take a look:
On being fired: "We realize times have been difficult lately, so in an effort to improve the office work environment, we will be providing you an involuntary opportunity to leave the company."
On your car being reposessed: "Thank you for your continued support of our company. We realize you have been unable to make the required payments on your luxury vehicle, and in an effort to help you solve this problem, we are happy to inform you that we will be taking your car off of your hands. Rest assured that you will still have the same access to bus service that you have always enjoyed."
It's nice to know big companies still care about the customer.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
I took my car to the Nissan dealership this morning bright and early. Dropped it off, got a courtesy shuttle ride to work, no problem. Plenty of nice people at the North Seattle Nissan dealership's service department.
Got one call from them around noon asking for more details of the problem. Explained in further detail the problem, and all was well.
Then got another call around 3:15pm explaining that they'd looked into the problem, verified that 2 window regulators need to be replaced, but that the almighty Nissan corporate warranty folks are denying coverage (because my car is at 62,000 which is over the 60,000 warranty extension). The dealer tried to negotiate with the corporate folks to get it covered, but got nowhere. However, TJ (the service guy) gave me Nissan's number so I could try to fight it out myself.
A call to Nissan got more nice people, who were rather helpful, or shall I say, as helpful as they could be without actually resolving my issue. The first person updated all of the basics, took all of my information, praised my choice of a Nissan Altima since it's the "most popular passenger car in the world", yadda yadda yadda, gave me a case number, and then passed me off to another "specialist" who really did nothing more than told me that a "specialist" (if everyone's a specialist, doesn't that make nobody one?) would talk to the dealer and I would receive a resolution by the end of the day tomorrow. I got no indication whether or not anything would actually be done about it, nor did I get the feeling that anyone I spoke with had any power to actually do anything to resolve it.
I called the dealer back, who were also surprised that Nissan wasn't going to do anything immediately, but agreed that the corporate people will probably breakdown and cover the replacements. So tonight I'm back to pick up my car, with no repairs done to it at all. Hopefully once I get to a person who can actually resolve my issues, the reason will stand out and they'll stand by their product and fix the defective parts in my car. Then I'll make ANOTHER appointment to get the windows fixed and hopefully have it taken care of. Fortunately I'm in a position where it's not a critical problem that "must be fixed now", so I can fight until the bitter end if necessary. I'll say one thing, the longer and more trouble it takes to get this resolved, the less I'll be looking at buying another Nissan.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Well you're all wrong. The complaint I have is about the power windows on my 2001 Nissan Altima. As anyone who has ridden in my car with me no doubt knows, sometime last fall, just at the tail end of the Seattle heat waves of 2005, my passenger-side power window stopped working, well, effectively. It went down without any problem at all, but had serious issues rolling back up. Obviously something was broken in the mechanism, which I verified by actually ripping half of the door apart to see if it was anything easily fixable, which it wasn't. My conclusion, "hey, these things happen" and I'd get it fixed in the Spring when I actually cared about having a window that opens again.
Flash forward to February, for some reason I had the need to roll down the rear window on the passenger side, and as I was rolling it back up what happened... it was starting to act just like the front one! One broken window, reasonable accidental breakage... two broken windows, something's definitely not right.
After a little research on the internet last night, I find that there is a known issue with the windows on certain 2001 Altimas, exactly the issue that I am having. So this morning I gave a call up to my local Nissan dealer and talk to their service department. They look up the VIN number of my car in their system, and lo and behold, there's a voluntary recall / replacement program for all 4 window regulators on my car. Though in Nissan's infinite wisdom (or at least their lawyers, no doubt), they were covered under a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty extension, which puts the warranty expiration out to... March 30, 2006. Good thing I called when I did.
Of course, I don't recall ever getting a notice about this impending failure of my window regulators, or I probably would have done something the moment I noticed a problem. The minor caveat is that the mileage on my car is I believe about 61,000 miles. If they disqualify my warranty replacement because of that, just watch me go after Nissan's corporate goons and raise a fuss. I've been 100% satisfied with my car, many times extolled the greatness and trouble-free maintenance of my car, and would definitely consider getting another Nissan next time I buy a car... that should be worth far more to Nissan than angering me over silly window regulators that they know are faulty. I don't expect it to come to that, but I'm ready if it happens because no doubt retail price to fix 4 power window regulators probably runs in the $1000+ range.
Long blog short, I have an appointment to take my car in on Tuesday to get all 4 regulators replaced. Hope for the best.