Sunday, November 25, 2007

AR12 - Leg 4 - No chicken, no check-in

And we're off again with leg 4 of the Amazing Race. Will it prove as exciting as I predicted in the previous leg? Probably not, but we shall see...

More marked paths through nowhere. Pick up a chicken... you'll eat it later. "No chicken, no check-in." Oh yeah, and click-it or ticket. Prediction: there's going to be a chicken chase sometime during this leg.

Detour: Shake your pan or shake your booty. Objective vs subjective. Meh... whatever. Except that everyone seems to want to dance. Classic. It seems obvious that creativity was valued above any traditional dance steps. These Africans have never seen Britney's moves... so the blondes succeeded well.

"Caution: U-Turn Ahead"?!?!? A U-Turn? What is this? Could it be ALMOST EXACTLY WHAT I INVENTED AS A 'DEAD END'? Slightly different, in that much more like a yield, a team in front can selectively force another team to go back and do the other detour. But man, I was right on! Feeling of great satisfaction here.
And the blondes U-turn DC#2, who were next to last behind them. Pretty callous use of U-turn. It wasn't really an effective use of the U-turn, I don't think. Just going to make some enemies.

Roadblock: ride a bike with a "potentially uncooperative goat" to deliver the stuff to someone at the market. Uneventful. C-.

Ronald: "Ok, I'll shut my trap." Yes, please do.

What a race to the mat! The siblings beat out DC1 by a nose for first place. "I just feel like everyone should have their turn and they've already been first." HAHA, it's a race kids, deal with it. I wouldn't have let them finish first either. I would have been racing them too. After all was said and done, the U-Turn successfully took out its first victim, DC2 is the last team to arrive.

Besides the U-turn, I wasn't too thrilled by this leg of the race either. It looks like we're off to someplace new next week. Change of scenery should be nice.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sky-High Dining

Every so often someone comes up with a new idea that makes you go... WHAT?!

[USA Today Article]

Presenting "Dinner in the Sky": dine at a table suspended from a crane 165 feet above the ground, harnessed into a chair like you're in a roller coaster.

This begs the immediate question... WHY? Are people really that fascinated with cheap thrills and gimicks that this actually would sound like an appealing proposition? In the spirit of cynicism, I present the Top 10 Things Heard During a Dinner in the Sky Event:

10) "As we prepare for our descent, please make sure your plates are securely fastened."

9) "Whew... I think I had a bit too much iced tea."

8) "It was like eating with the 12 apostles and Jesus Christ." [Quote from the co-inventor.]

7) "Anyone have a fire extinguisher?"

6) "Timmy? What happened to all your vegetables?"

5) "Check, please!"

4) "Ladies and gentlemen, we're expecting a bit of turbulence... please return to your seats."

3) "Welcome to Dinner in the Sky, the world's largest lightning rod!"

2) "Waiter, there's a bird in my soup!"

1) "Look at all the people below us... Oops! Can I please have another steak knife?"

In a related story, Dinner in Disguise? Sky-high dining reports drop in reservations after bout of violent food poisoning.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

AR12 - Leg 3 - Fly where?

9 Teams remain... who will be eliminated next?

Amsterdam. We begin by finding out that Ronald developed a hernia on the last leg of the race and was treated during the pit stop. This does not bode well for Team Tacoma.

Fly to Ouagadouguawhatkhcasmasomewhere... er... somewhere in Burkina Faso. Though first the teams have to figure out that's where it is. Once again though, we have an incredibly long flight to start off the leg. This should once again equalize the teams into a couple big groups. Even closer, it's going to be 1 team on a 7:20am Flight, 8 teams all together on an 8:00 am flight. Of course, as expected, the 8am flight suffers "mechanical problems" that may cause all 8 teams to miss their connection in Paris. Of course that wouldn't happen, would it? Of course not. Now all 9 teams are equalized onto a single flight to Ouagadougou. I wouldn't want to have to pay by the letter.

Now take the last train to nowhere. I-24... BINGO! Bingo, Burkina Faso is uh, in the middle of nowhere. The train stops on the tracks and you jump off. Classic. It's quickly becoming reminiscent of the driving through Southern Africa on AR7. And what do you do in Bingo? That's right, a roadblock... milk a camel... and then drink it. Bleah.

Lead 4 camels across the savannah all the way to a group of waiting nomads... destined to become the most famous Burkina Faso nomads in the entire world. And how easy it is to get lost when there are no roads and everything looks the same.

And Ronald is singing again... great. And DC2 is having a breakdown. Oh the drama. If there's one thing the Amazing Race has taught us all, is that screaming will solve any problem. :)

Detour: Teach it or Learn it. Teach 10 English words to children who know no English whatsoever. Or, the opposite, learn 10 Mori words. Kids learn better than older people, so I'd teach it instead of trying to learn it.

Yes, teaching kids the words "skyscraper", "camera" and "cowboy" when these kids have certainly never seen one of any of them in their entire lives, makes a lot of sense. :) Classic moment of the night goes once again to Ronald for describing skyscraper in terms of King Kong on the Empire State Building. Word association only works if they can associate it to something else they know. :) The siblings, however, take the learn it approach and pull into 1st place.

To the pitstop they go... and the wind and rains begin. Phil stands on the magic carpet with an umbrella... as the sibling are team number 1. I think the mat will need some dry cleaning after this leg of the race. I hope they have spares.

DC2 is still trying to milk their camels. They are so far behind, I see little chance remaining for them not to be the next victim of the Amazing Race. Teams 2,3,4,5 and 6 all arrive on the magic carpet within a minute of each other. The blondes arrive shortly later as team #7. The remaining 2 teams (DC2 and the Sisters) are significantly behind and it will be a race to the finish as both are trying to Learn It. DC2 survives to make it 8th. The sisters are the last team to arrive.

I must say this leg of the race was pretty straight forward, though interesting at least due to the unique locations and challenges. I kinda hope that they continue on their adventures through Africa, because on some level all cities start to look the same after a while. Once you're in the middle of Africa, everything is new and different... until the nothingness starts to look too familiar, but that's when it's time to leave. We'll see what happens next week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

40 days and 40 nights

The date is November 16th, an entire 40 days before Christmas. To put that in perspective, Biblical references use "40 days and 40 nights" as synonymous with "a very, very long time". Why the significance, you might ask? Well, as it seems to happen earlier every year, today it happened again... WARM 106.9 started playing non-stop Christmas music. Truth be told, I wouldn't even had realized it until I stopped in at Subway on my way home from work and as I walk in the door, hear Andy Williams singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and had to do an auditory double-take. [Don't ask me how that works, by the way.]

Avid readers of my blog will recall prior references to my long-standing rule regarding holiday music. I am, of course, a huge fan of Christmas music of all types, but have instituted a rule (which admittedly, like the Pirates' Code is more a guideline than an actual rule) that I shall not intentionally listen to Christmas music until Thanksgiving. This was officially amended in 2004 to allow anytime starting the week of Thanksgiving. So in actuality, even according to my guidelines, as soon as Sunday it would be acceptable. But still... I think it's the fact that Thanksgiving this year is so early that it just seems too early for the holiday season to be here already. The whole point of the rule is simply to make sure that I'm not completely sick of Christmas music by the time December 25th actually arrives.

I guess you can't change it. By Monday I'll have the Christmas music ready to play on the radio, and my all-star collection of holiday music cascading from the headphones of my MP3 player.

At least I still have 39 days to start my Christmas shopping.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

AR12 - Leg 2 - Ditch Valuting for Dummies

10 teams remain... who will be eliminated next?

Tarry no longer in Ireland, they're immediately off to Amsterdam. The only thing for certain about starting off with a flight is that all of the teams will be relatively equalized into a couple of groups. Especially when they're all starting off around midnight or 2am.

Quote of the night so far comes from Kate and Pat, "We are religious people, but we have no allusions that God cares if we win The Amazing Race." Too funny.

Well, apparantly it wasn't quite as much as getting to the airport to catch a plane to Amsterdam, but to attempt to book the flight fast enough. And some early morning drama on the first morning of the race, probably a bit of lack of sleep makes the tempers rise. What else is to be expected? Of course, the producers will capitalize on that and try to make it seem more dramatic than it is. However, 9 teams make it on the first flight to Dublin, 1 team gets left behind for the next flight. But... you never know, that team will probably end up in first when all is said and done.

Ooohhh, and Team Tacoma pulls the nice card and tries to get a step ahead on the standby list for the flight, but apparently fails as they end up on the second flight. Ronald goes on a bit of a tirade at Grandson about how being rude won't get you anywhere... he might take a bit of his own suggestion and avoid making too many enemies this early on the race. At least *pretend* to be friends with everyone. :)

Detour: Hoist it of Hunt it. Hoist 5 pieces of furniture using pulleys to a several story building. Or hunt for two specifically marked bikes among hundreds, and bike 5 miles to get your next clue. Hoist it seems pretty quick and easy, hunt it seems long and painful. By my long-standing philosophy, take the harder one. But I just can't imagine hunt it to be much easier than this. Though hoist it seems like any of a thousand cartoon episodes where they try to hoist a grand piano 5 stories only to have it crash to the ground on Wile E. Coyote instead of the Road Runner.

This brings us to my latest idea for a new game element... and this is sheer genius if you ask me... I call it the "Dead End". It occurs in association with a Detour on the race, but after you complete one of the detours, it leads you to the forementioned dead end after which you have to go back and take the other detour and try to catch up the lost time. The only problem is that it's really a random penalty if you just happen to choose the wrong detour to take the first time. I think the only time it would be reasonable to do that is if it's a very short detour that won't take long, but just enough to be a minor penalty for choosing poorly. But it would be fun. I hereby place this idea in the public domain... so if the producers of the Amazing Race decide to read my blog and want to try it, go right ahead. :)

Back to the race, we're off to the next stop. As I suspected, those who did Hoist It well managed to pull about 5 spots ahead of the first place team who did the Hunt It.

Roadblock. The Dutch sport of "Ditch Valuting". The name says all you need to know. Sounds like fun to me. And incredibly easy for DC2. Lorena and Jason, are off to the pit stop. This is going to provide quite the comic relief though.

The final 3 teams are just now making it to Amsterdam. But I suspect they'll make it further than some who are already there.

"Lorena and Jason... you're team number one!" DC1 makes it #2, followed shortly by the blondes at #3. Could we pick three more annoying teams as the first three teams? Seriously.

Ronald talks too much. Shut up.

Pops... oh my goodness. "I have no comment," says grandson. I concur.

The goths come in #4, siblings #5 and the newlydaters #6. I actually like these teams.

Ronald still talks too much.

But team Tacoma pulls of a #9 finish.

Kate and Pat are going to hear the 6 words no racer wants to hear "You're the last team to arrive".

This was a rather quick moving episode. Again, not particularly interesting. But we are proceeding to eliminate the only teams who are actually distinct. I have yet to be really interested in what happens next... but it's early in the race and still not the real exciting stuff yet.

Oh, and the show's over... but I have this suspicion that Ronald is still talking too much.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Into the Woods

Last night I saw Into the Woods, a musical composed by Stephen Sondheim back in the mid 1980's, at the 5th Avenue Theatre. This was yet another of the "musicals I don't recall ever hearing of or seeing," besides the occasional reference. The musical interweaves four famous fairy tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella) within a common setting and then attempts to answer the question "what happens AFTER 'Happily Ever After'?"

The first act is pretty straight-forward, and tells each of the four stories, threading them together with an original fifth story that builds its plot using elements from each of the other four. At first, I expected it to become quite a mess of subplots that would be nothing if not confusing to follow. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it very easy to follow, probably the result of the four fairy tales being so familiar and the characters so distinct. But despite how busy it was, I found the first act to be very level-toned, with not much excitement or any climactic points whatsoever. It was a very long (1.5 hours for the Act I alone) set up for the second act. If fact, at the end of the first act, short of a "To Be Continued!" announced by the narrator, you'd likely be asking the question (as some around me did), "Is that the end? Or is it just intermission?"

Act II is where the stories converge and the real embellishment occurs as the characters from each of the stories unite in a common goal of defending themselves against the Giant of the Beanstalk's wife avenging the death of her husband in the first act. I must admit, as the second act began, I had that momentary dread of "should I have left at the intermission?" But the second act proved to actually be a bit captivating, and rather entertaining, which kept my attention easily until the conclusion.

As this was one of the 5th's local productions, the cast drew from the finest musical performers Seattle has to offer, who are certainly not a disappointment. The scenery and other effects were top-notch, while without all the flash and awe that seems to have become the requisite of current Broadway musicals. It was a solid musical in the genre of what I would call "traditional American musicals."

On to the ratings:

Script - 3 stars - Interesting premise, but it just didn't appeal much to me.
Technical - 4 stars - Solid and quality. Even the occasional pyrotechnics. Well designed and well executed. It was like looking into a storybook.
Cast - 4 stars - An outstanding local group of performers, with some definite highlights but consistent quality overall.
Music - 3 stars - Despite its Tony award-winning score (edging out Phantom for the honor in 1988), I just wasn't impressed. Though not bad, I didn't come away humming the tunes or wanting more.
Overall - 3 stars - Hard to justify more. I would see it again if given the right opportunity, but not otherwise.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election Roundup 2007

Rarely am I compelled to write about anything political, but after yesterday's election festivities, I thought I'd make a few comments considering about everything I voted one way on went the other way.

Prop 1 - the aptly named "Roads and Transit" package that would bring light rail everywhere and lots more roads, failing miserably. I think the problem all along has been the "roads" part of it. I'm a huge fan of light rail wherever they want to put it. The vocal masses opposed to this measure took issue with the roads part, and well, I guess I can't blame them for that. The problem was they tried to put it all together. I think people would have approved the light rail if it were all on its own. Oh well... I guess we'll just have to wait another decade for solid public transportation options and pay twice as much.

Initiative 960 - Tim Eyman's latest attempt at "armchair legislating" which would require 2/3 legislative approval (or any voter approval) for any tax increase in Olympia, PLUS an "advisory vote" of the people for any new tax... passing. How anyone can vote for anything that comes out of Eyman's bag o' crap anymore still astounds me. The one commonality that every one of his initiatives have demonstrated countless times before is that they create sweeping changes that hurt far more than they help. Can we recall back to his first $30 car tabs initiative that was passed? You don't have to look far to see the lack of decent bus service and sky-high ferry tolls to see the results of that. Oh, but Timmy's Lexus SUV is as cheap as ever for him to license. Good thing we saved him some money. On the bright side, this ridiculous piece of legislation will likely be tied up in court as they determine it contradicts with the state constitution and then shoot it back down. Then Eyman will start crying out that the "will of the people" is being ignored by the state, blah blah blah... we've been through this all before.

EHJR 4204 - Reducing the requred vote from 60% to 50% to approve school levies. Is this just a change to make it easier for school levies to pass because they keep failing? Of course it is. But does it still make sense? Of course it does. Why should schools be held to higher requirements than anything else? It only takes 50% (+1) of the people to approve stupid initiatives, and other major taxes, why do schools have to get more? This never has made any sense to me. Plus, schools need the money, and it's a much better way to spend it than on most of this other junk. If 50% of the people don't want it, that's fine, but 40% shouldn't be able to dictate the terms.

Everything else on the ballot is relatively uninteresting. We didn't have any elections for any big state or federal positions, so it was relatively uneventful. But at least it's all over now, and I can stop seeing all of those darn commercials.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Amazing Race 12 - The Race Begins

I have decided to resurrect my ongoing musings and running commentary related to the new season of The Amazing Race [Sundays, 8pm, CBS]. Longtime, avid readers will recall back to 2005 (yes, that long ago) when the first of my series, the Amazing Race 7 Travelblog, was produced, followed later that year by the Amazing Race 8 Travelblog. After being seriously turned off by the Family Edition that was AR8, I have taken a break from watching several of the latest seasons (AR9, AR10, and AR11's All-Stars Edition). But I'm back, partially because there is little else to watch on Sunday night, and I have little else to do on Sunday night, as well as the fact that my blog is desperately in need of some new material.

This time, though, instead of sticking everything in its own separate blog thread, you'll find it right here along with the rest of the random postings you've become accustomed to. Plus, it's easier for me that way. For those of you new to the format, a brief introduction: I sit here and type-type-type in real-time what I think as I'm watching the show. There isn't much editing, you get whatever comes out of my head, and fortunately, I fast-forward through the commercials for you. :)

Well, the DVR is cued up and my typing fingers are ready, so without further ado, let's kick off the Amazing Race 12 Travelblog.

Here's Phil on top of some skyscraper in Los Angeles, looking much the same as he always does, even after 12 seasons, does this man not age?! Seriously? Anyway, let's meet the teams... as past experience has indicated, some of these aren't worth caring about, especially at this early in the race, but we'll try to give each of them their 10-seconds of fame, which is about as much as the producers gave them.

Marianna and Julia - The sisters from Miami. Will "use their looks to win challenges". Touching.
Ronald and Christina - The obligatory father and daughter, but from Tacoma. Nice local connection there.
Kynt and Vyxsin- Goth couple. "Everyday is Halloween!"
Nicholas and Donald - Airline Pilot and his grandfather. First impression, these look like they'll be a fun team to follow.
Nathan and Jennifer - Dating couple #1, gotta have a few of those because it's free drama.
Azaria and Hendekea - The obligatory brother and sister team, but both engineers.
Lorena and Jason - Dating couple #2. These look less drama, but looks can be deceiving.
Kate and Pat - Married lesbian ministers. I'm pretty sure that's a first for AR.
Ari and Staela - Best friends and coworkers. This is going to be one of the fun teams.
Shana and Jennifer - Friends from LA - but shall be known forever more as "The Blondes"
TK and Rachel - Newly dating, also from SoCal. Newly dating in Episode 1, sure to be newly broken up by the Finale.

Welcome to the Playboy Mansion, which was obviously chosen for the scenic and discrete locale, as it is barely mentioned that that's where they are. This is a family show, afterall. Phil gives the quick rules... "Good Luck, Travel Safe, and GO!" STAMPEDE!!!

Waste no time in LA, they're off the Shannon, Ireland. Let's see who knows how to drive their minivans through LA and find the airport. As usual in the first leg of the race, there's plenty of enthusiasm to go around, reality hasn't quite set in yet.

AND the opening credits. Dramatic poses, wait for it, and turn to face the camera. Typical. I guess the formula is so good they don't bother changing it.

First to the airport, who really cares. I mean, everyone's gonna make it to Ireland within about an hour of each other, that's the way the show works. Both the dating couples were in the first group to arrive. The siblings hit the cutoff point, "Sorry, the flight is full." 7 teams miss out on the first flight. Tragic. But the first alliance has formed, Siblings and Tacoma join forces to use the power of the internet to do some pre-search on the destination. Smart cookies.

Ah, Irish accents, at least I can understand what they are saying. Find the smallest church in the world, a rock thing on a hill, of course, they'll be stranded there until morning waiting for a ferry. Oh, it was so worth it pushing and shoving your way to the airport, wasn't it?

I wonder if you can tell where you are in the world solely by the taxi drivers. In New York, you'd find middle-eastern guys with turbans, but in Ireland, old guys wearing sweaters. We'll have to revisit this in a later episode.

It's obviously rainy season in Ireland. OOohhh, wait for it... Nathan and Jennifer (Dating Couple #1) are already yelling at each other! Did I predict that just 10 minutes ago, I think I did. DC1, you have a phone call... Dr. Phil wants to book you for his show after you get eliminated.

OK, I already like Team Tacoma, these folks are just nice people, definitely from the Northwest. Unfrotunately, I don't think that bodes particularly well for surviving the race. We'll soon find out.

Next stop, Cleggan Farm, ride a bicycle-built-for-two through the mud to find your next clue. Oh this should be tons of fun. Who will fall off first? Well first we have to get there. Wow, DC2 (Lorena and Jason) is just about as much drama as DC1. "We're not going the right way, I know it, just listen to me." "I feel like we're not communicating well, which is our problem in real life." Hilarious. This is one who's watched TOO MUCH Dr. Phil.

And the goths' bicycle chain broke, that sucks. But doesn't seem to change much. The bicycles seem to be a non-event.

Road Block: high wire bicycles. Probably a bit scary, but not too difficult. Also a non-eventful event.

Fun with donkeys. Getting any animal to go where you want it to is a challenge, let alone a donkey. Oh, now starts the mayhem. Some donkeys go fast, some go slow, and others don't go at all. One thing's for sure, yelling at the donkey "if you don't go I'm going to cut you up and eat you"... probably not the best method of motivation. Wow, stubborn as a mule... wait a second...

And it's off to the pit stop. Who's team will reign supreme? Who will be the first team to be eliminated, and fall into the ranks of "who were they?"

And the siblings arrive... and there's Phil on the magic carpet. "You're Team Number One!" Nice people. I approve. Followed shortly behind are the goths. Newlydaters are #3.

Ronald of Team Tacoma sings a lovely rendition of Danny Boy while pedaling along the high wire. That's awesome.

DC2 arrive #4 on the mat. DC1 have the stubborn mule and keep watching as half the other teams have already passed them. Pilot Nick and Grandpa Don come in #5. The blondes make it #6. Tacoma is #7, followed by the Kate and Pat #8. Both teams are just glad to have survived the first leg. Sisters come in 9th, followed by DC1 as 10th after finally pushing their stubborn mule all the way there. And finally we have the best friends, Ari and Staela, who just couldn't make it fast enough, and are the first team to be eliminated from AR12. Probably a good thing, because I didn't have a good nickname for them, and was having a heck of a time spelling Staela.

Well, as is customary with the first episode of the season, it was a bit frantic. I'm glad that they resisted the urge to turn a frantic 1-hour episode into a painfully long and boring 2-hour episode as they have in the past. Once again we seem to be heading east around the world... but that can always change. They usually like to mix things up a bit.

Interestingly enough, no detour on this leg of the race. And the roadblock wasn't hard enough to cause any real separation. As a result, it stayed pretty much a follow-the-leader the entire way through. Not very exciting, but the teams should be interesting. So far though, none of the teams really stand out to me as front-runners. Maybe it will be a close race each week.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Weekend festivus

It's been an eventful weekend so far, and it's only Saturday night. I'm incredibly tired, yet awake right now. This weekend has been filled with curling as we have our annual Autumn Bonspiel. I curled on a team with 2 of the guys I curl with on Thursday nights, and one other guy. After the luck of the draw gave us our first game at 10:30pm on Friday night, we proceeded to lose all three of our games and were done Saturday night. While this is somewhat disappointing, it does mean I don't have to curl at all on Sunday and I have a nice relaxing day ahead of me, including a Bonus Hour due to the miracle of Daylight Savings Time.

A rather amusing story: late last night I was driving down Aurora coming home from the curling club, and I look in my rear view mirror and there's a car tailgating me. After uttering a few things I usually do when stupid drivers annoy me (I'm very talkative, especially when nobody else is in the car) I pull forward and change lanes to let them get through since they were obviously in such a hurry. This red car paces me to the side and I look over and who do I see... my sister. Pay no attention to the odd coincidence that we both were driving down the same stretch of road at 1:45am. Truth be told, she didn't really know it was me in front of her either, she thought "that looks like Joe's car" but thought "naww, Joe wouldn't be out at 1:45am, he's lame like that". [Judicious readers will note, that she was tailgating me, without actually having any belief it was me at all.] But yes, it was me afterall... and a strangely funny coincidence.

I don't think I have much more exciting to say. I think it's time for bed.