Wednesday, July 28, 2004

"Kids come running for the great taste of...Frozen Blended Beverage."

More on the Krispy Kreme donut shake. I don't know, I'm kind of thinking this stuff is resembling The Stuff.

Key quote: "We don’t know what it is. It's just powder."

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

More than anything, the lesson I'm learning from this week is that I really miss John Heinz. I remain convinced that had he not died in 1991, you'd be looking at an either Bush-Heinz or Heinz-Bush presidency right now, and I'd think we'd be the better for it.

I only met him once, and what was amazing about it was the ordinariness of the affair. It was summer 1990, and my mother and I were doing a loop of possible colleges, we ended up at Dartmouth (one of those schools I was not so much looking at, as much as wanting to check whether they thought they were too good for me. When you're 16 and realize you'll never shake your redneck past, nor really want to, these things matter.) So in the lobby of some building of Dartmouth's campus there we were, and when they asked where everyone was from, there were two kids from Pennsylvania. Turns out the Heinzes were doing the exact same thing we were, just doing the drive around the country. (I believe it was Christopher, who did the introductions tonight.) While it wasn't something that would give me great insight into the man, I certainly gained a respect for him as a person, not just a politician.

I remember two things about April 3, 1991. It was the day that John Heinz's helicopter crashed, and it was also the day I got the letter from Cornell. Driving home that night, I realized that a similar letter was not being considered in another house. I've never felt good about that.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I really want to see the tape before I pass judgement on Teresa Heinz, since it sounds like the fight every politician has had with the Trib, (and frankly I'm utterly shocked that WTAE, the station for yesterday's breaking news today, has the film.) However, I have to admit some bafflement on what exactly was the intent of the word "un-Pennsylvanian" in her statement. I can't really parse it because it's kind of asking me to define the opposite of undefined. Sure you can describe various sections of the state, the Alabama T, the corners, but nothing has ever defined the state in whole (save my usual rant categories, the LCB, PennDot, and bad demographics, and I really hope she didn't want us to be more like those). We're talking about a state that put the top of its capitol dome on its quarter, to avoid controversy, then had to explain it, because nobody could see it in real life. So I'm baffled. Is there anything that defines Pennsylvania?
Okay, if anyone else survived Shatner...this should remove anyone else. With tracks. 1|2 (with Stevie Wonder?!?)

Friday, July 23, 2004

30points Significant Terrorist Incidents 1961-2003: A Brief Chronology
Okay, folks,

Ken's done for the summer, you can return to doing your normal things at 7pm, or whenever. Or perhaps I can offer you an alternative something to do?

I want you to consider something. Ken's run is the greatest boon to quiz bowl in terms of interest by the general public that you or I have seen in our lifetime. Now I'm sure there are arguments that a couple people would make for other times, but none of them combine all of the following:

1. National exposure
2. Daily media saturation
3. Timing (this one is what makes it unique, and in my view an opportunity unmatched.)

In other cases (NYTimes article, Kevin's Millionaire run, Dave Goodman's), the events were occurring away from recruiting season, and in the championship season. They provided a boost, but you couldn't capitalize on the boost until the next autumn.

Well, now, you're going to be right there, starting your year, gathering new freshmen (if you're in college, 8th/9th/10th graders if you're in HS), and smack in the middle of this, you're going to have people discussing Ken as he comes back. Some will be intrigued, some will be amazed, some will be envious, some will think they could have done it, and some will think they could if they knew a little more stuff. Well, guess what? In every case, you, and your team, are their target audience. What better way to make the case for quiz bowl to new people than to be able to point to success stories they've been talking about themselves? People will be asking "How does this Ken guy know so much?", you have the answer. And it's not like you have to couch your words, you can very easily say, "Yes, this is how he got that good. If you want to do that, this is the best training out there."

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you have a team, you do need teammates, it's the unescapable fact of the game. And for a change, you'll have a readymade, excited population, wanting to get involved, even if they've never played before. So you've got to be prepared. If you've never been overwhelmed by the first practice when twice the people that you expected showed up, be ready. And if you have had that trip, imagine it's going to be twice that.

Be ready, have all your materials ready. If you poster up, have it ready, and realize you'll probably have better luck pointing to his success. If you have a folder that goes out to freshmen, make sure your organization is in it. If there's an activities fair, have people there, have a buzzer set up. If you don't have an intramural, consider it. If you have one, advertise the crap out of it. Certainly write questions, you'll need to take these people to tournaments at some point.

This year, you'll have more people interested, and more people who could be interested. Now, of course, you'll have to aim for retention, and that's much harder than getting them in the door, but by having a concrete example, the way is shown, and you'll have better luck retaining people as well. I don't find it inconcievable that, with proper care and resourcefulness, the number of players on the circuit could double.

Now, I know people will look at this, and go "all we're going to get out of this is people looking to get better on game shows." Well, sure, that's how some of them will start off. How they develop is up to you, in guiding them, and up to them, in their approach.

So now you've got two hours and thirty minutes every week that's been freed up. What are you going to do to prepare?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I think this might actually be the mental equivalent of dropping a daisy cutter into the forest of my psyche.

Look at the talent list, it's like they purposely picked just the right mix of people that I'd be scarred for life, and all my friends would be as well, for entirely different reasons in each case.

Ben Folds
Joe Jackson
Henry Rollins
Aimee Mann
Nick Hornby
Brad Paisley
All surrounding the one.

If you'll excuse me, I'm having a "bet the Cubs" moment.
Greg sends me news that this weblog's favorite members of family Mustelidae are now the subject of controversy in British parliament. Please read, because otherwise you're not going to believe me when I say that I can't think of a worse job than force feeding oral contraceptives to badgers.
10points If it wasn't arsenic for historical figures,it was mercury
Apparently the folks at Krispy Kreme have decided to simply tell the Atkins people to suck it, and not merely figuratively. It's the donut shake, and it comes in coppertunity.

We're one step closer to mainlining sugar, and needing a lawnmower-style starter for our pancreas. Well, I guess those in committed relationships could go with a kickstarter, it's not like you could do that solo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

More via Pittsblog:

10pointsA short history of the battle for Fort Necessity, known to all elementary school kids in my county as "this field trip bites."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is basically for Joe, via Pittsblog, though learning from it that the guy who played Sho'nuff in Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon has written children's books was obviously one of those things absolutely meant for me to know:

10pointsThe Fish that Saved Pittsburgh
Today is the 30points
35th anniversary of the moon landing, the 30points
60th anniversary of a plot to blow up Hitler, and the zeroth anniversary of me reading 10points
this story on Woody Guthrie, which given its title I was sure was going to be about the bomb to kill Hitler.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Something that bothered me, just an odd linguistic construction.

All through the run-up to the Democratic convention, I keep hearing the phrase "rising star of the Democratic party." Nothing wrong with the phrase itself, it's just perfectly fine. The application is getting a little out of hand though. In addition to two that I figured were getting that, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, came one that kinda just filled me with huh?

Chris Matthews, in a way that I hope meant he was as sick of the construct as I had become, referred to Joe Biden, 1988 Presidential candidate, as "rising star of the party." If he was playing with me, fine, but if he wasn't, I may have lost my mind.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm beginning to get the feeling that every historical figure had an ridiculously elevated level of arsenic in their remains. Example #9000: George III. 10PointsThe BBC has the story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I don't know. Maybe it is me. I like to think that my problem with people trying to sell me things is common, maybe I'm an extreme case, but the first thing I think about when somebody tries to pull this crap with me is "You know, I don't need the size bigger than my kidneys, maybe I don't need this at all." And that is something I have done on occasion, willingly negated the effect of the secret shopper. I would love to think that more people should do this, if only to knock this fascist institution down.

(I'm sure I'm not crediting someone for this) In other fascist marketing news, the appropriate color for your brownshirt has been found. So now I at least know I'm willfully, rather than merely woefully, ignorant of the laws of the fashion police. Frankly, what's absolutely killing me about this is mangled language. One cannot simply put together two words at random and expect it to mean something. Coppertunity?! Aloeminium?! Did "Before and After" guy have a stroke and is having a weird form of aphasia?

Coppertunity really bothers me, because I can see the entire (makes the air quotes) logical path. "Let's combine something you make knockers from with something that knocks... BRILLIANT!!"

I've said before. Somehow, I liked my free markets better when they were free of marketing.

PS--Acier, I hate to tell you, but the only "expansion of cool metals" coming from Pittsburgh means that you've described the color of the bottom of an Iron City can. Stylish.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Our favorite spammer is back. Okay, maybe not favorite, but preferred in a "I'll kill you last" sort of way. Yes, the guy who uses the [Random] Initial. [Random] for his name is back. I've gotten three nice ones recently.

Hiatuses O. Celebratory
Nibble O. Abandon (I really hope the middle name is Or)

and the big winner of late

Discolored R. Babbling

Sunday, July 11, 2004

10points Today is the 200th anniversary of the
duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Disco Demolition Riot.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Adding a couple to the FraughtWatch.

Mark keyed off on the Britney marriage as having distinct possibilities. However, what's really putting it sky high is the concept of no prenup

Similarly, I have to start charting Willie Williams, a guy so...well...risky, that Miami has to figure out whether or not they want him out of high school.
I Remember California
Day 9
I had breakfast with my folks, they were heading north to Oregon to finish their vacation. On the other hand, I was heading south. I said my goodbyes to everyone and got on the 101. For the rest of the trip, let's just assume I felt drained by this trip. For some reason, this trip just felt especially grueling. I did get to go through all the CD's I had bought along the trip. Just before I hit Gilroy I ended up hitting "Suzie Lightning" on Mr. Bad Example. I needed to stop, and the Garlic Store seemed like a reasonable place, though upon reflection it was a little too "Hickory Farms with extra Garlic."

About a hour later, I hit Salinas, and decided I should stop at the National Steinbeck Center. If you've got an hour in that area, I do recommend it. It offers some nice insights on Steinbeck's work, and if you've ever had a Travels with Charlie bonus, it's nice to see the vehicle that inspired it.

The other side of the museum is devoted to the valley's agriculture, and well, it's...interesting. I got to learn about the cigarette substitute made out of lettuce, saw this frightening image of a 15-foot tall Marilyn Monroe maniacally laughing as she is about to crush you with her giant artichoke minions, and this station where one can vote for the president of vegetables, and I discovered that a Muppet artichoke bears a scary resemblance to Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, except the artichoke talks like a Kennedy. There's also a gift shop with lots of quality quotes from Steinbeck (two that I liked are included here.) Additionally, I found this children's book which frankly begs to be a series. (Your assignment: come up with equally ridiculous sequels.)

After there, I running a bit behind schedule, since I was aiming to hit LA by 6pm. I stopped only two more times, one a Carl's Jr. (trying out another chain), and for gas. I really didn't dig Carl's Jr., but I think I was coming down with something, so I won't blame them. I contemplated the double six dollar burger, but I realized I wasn't going to be up to it. I did, however, formulate the joke that should be written for standup about this.
"So I went to Carl's Jr. and I saw this Double Six Dollar Burger, they're advertising it as a pound of meat on a bun. Now I don't know about you, but I can't eat that. So I asked the guy, 'Who buys this? Why do you have this on the menu?' The guy says, 'we got a plan, we're going to keep selling it until we kill all the cows, or we kill all the people eating the cows.' So I said, 'Isn't that a little cynical?' and he said, 'well, we're running a pool in the back.' So I took the burger....and the points."

A long drive through nothingness will drive me a little nuts, as will knowing exactly when flights to Amsterdam leave. So by the time I got to LA and found Joe's apartment, I was basically out of it. We stopped off at a Pho2000 for dinner, covering my need for food I can't usually get in PA, and giving us another option for the Milan Plan. Perfectly natural for a company to have franchises in Vietnam and Milan. I don't know why more haven't done it.

Lacking a plan, or really anything else I needed to see, we just crashed in and went through Badder Santa on DVD. That's some good stuff. After everyone else had collapsed for the evening, I started flipping through channels. I ended up finding three things I couldn't get at home.
1. Spanish language coverage of the WNBA.
2. Dr. Gene Scott. Back in the day when my folks had the satellite, Dr. Gene was the most baffling thing on airwaves. One channel was nothing but 24 hours of Dr. Gene Scott sitting alone on a chair on stage, discussing some strain of theology, without commercials, without a break, without anything. It had all the appearance of a man trapped there talking forever. It was surreal. One of my favorite Robin Williams jokes was him describing Dr. Gene Scott, perfectly capturing his slow drawl, "Today we will com-pare Jesus and Spiderman". I swear that joke was written just for me.
3. Korean Home Shopping Network, selling breast enhancements. It was like bad spam email come to life.

Day 10
Rising late, we ended up driving to some place called the Astro Diner. We got a decent pair of omeletes, though this continued my whole curiosity with the avocado. I figured I needed to have one out there, since that seems to be the place where it's considered useful, but once again, I found it indistinguishable from Crisco with food coloring. I can only figure that the California Avocado Growers Board has an iron fist of control New York's five families would envy.

After the meal, we went to the Dodger game. It was also the Angels game, so I killed two birds with one ticket. It was a decent game, 10-5 Dodgers, Bartolo Colon imploded, and I got a Dodger dog. I hate to tell them that Milwaukee truly has them outdistanced, though I had a bratwurst there. I should have gone into Vincent Vega mode. "It's a good dog, it's not a five dollar dog, but it's a good dog." We also played the game of "what's the worst player whose uniform is available to buy?" I think we had a winner in Darren Dreifort. We joked "Proceeds from the sale of Darren Dreifort merchandise go to benefit paying off his contract."

After the game we drove over to the Masons, and then hailed my cousin Jason. Jason's a cool guy, he's ended up doing more with technology than I ever will. If you're using Blogrolling, you're using his stuff. My dad can be proud, between helping out Ryan and Jason get involved with computers, he's been a major seed donor to technology. S'anyway, we ended up going out for Thai, then ended up meeting at the Comedy Store. It was potpourri night, or something. Whichever comedians showed up got on. Our goal was to catch Dave Taylor. Dave played for CMU back in the day, and headed west to do standup. This makes him one of two former quiz bowlers to do standup. You wouldn't think that would be a viable option, but then again, I've seen people escape quiz bowl via Magic the Gathering and poker, so you know, that's not all that unexpected. Dave was pretty good, and subsequent comedians merely improved his act by being so bad. By far the high point for me had to be me accidentally jamming the MC's circuits before we left.

Him: "Yeah, just look at this guy from Oregon here!" (looks closer at the O hat,) "Wait that's not Oregon, where is that?"
DEK: "Omaha."
Him: "You from Omaha?" (Struggling for Nebraska based humor)
DEK: "No. Pittsburgh."
Him: "Oh." [turns away, realizing the Pittsburgh vein had been mined by Taylor earlier.]

Day 11
It was my last day in California, and having done almost everything I wanted to do in the state, I figured there was little need to rush. Joe had taken the day off from work (he had worked the Saturday, Day 9). I UPS'ed most of my new stuff out, caught a picture of the Thai Town Hot Dog and then we drove over to Burbank. We decided to put the In-n-Out Burger knowledge to good use, and I ordered up some animal fries. Cheese, grilled onions and sauce on the fries. As you can see here, it's California poutine.

We then ended up at a used bookstore, I don't know what went wrong then. I had a little gastrointestinal trouble, then I had some sort of claustrophobic attack. I don't know. I'd never had that happen before, but maybe it was my sinuses. Like I said before, I was having trouble the day before at Carl's Jr., and now maybe it was coming back to roost.

After the bookstore, we decided the remaining essential California thing to see was the Galleria, (the original). Frankly, there's not much to recommend it now, since it's been rebuilt, it's now basically built to be a place to eat and nothing else. We took the opportunity there to see Saved!, which is one of those movies that I have to figure is set up to fail. The problem I had with it was that it was aiming to create a balanced portrayal on all sides. Well, doing that in my mind kills the effect of farce, which is what it was aiming for. I wasn't expecting it to be a nasty skewering of one side, which is what some reviews seemed to be hoping for, I just knew that it had picked a subject too complex for one film to resolve neatly. Such is the problem with trying to be in the middle, I know that a little too well.

After that, we just ended up getting dinner. I had to be up at 4:30 for the flight, and I needed to get some sleep.

Day 12
In the entire trip, I hadn't been rushed once, but a catastrophic slip-up was due. I found that out the hard way, as I couldn't find the car I rented. I had paranoia going through my system big time, as I spent 20 minutes dragging all my luggage around before sunrise, desperately trying to figure out where the car was. Finally, I remembered it was straight-right, rather than two turns, and I piled in. The next problem was turning in the car, by the time I got to the airport, I found that the map to the car rental place was complete bull. Then when I found the billboard for the rental place, it didn't indicate the right street (well, it did indicate the right street, but it didn't indicate there was a block where that street didn't exist.) I finally dropped the car off at 6, for a 7am flight. (Start calling fraught now.) 6:10 they dropped me off, and I realized that the line was insane. I got to the head of the line at 6:21, but 6:20 was the cutoff for my luggage, so they bumped me. Now I was starting to get really ticked off. My sinuses were acting up, I was overstressed from car deal, and I had discovered I had left my CD in the car. Then when I got moved into the security line, somebody dropped their luggage on my foot. This was only compounded when they moved me to another security line, and I tripped over my own luggage, twisting my ankle. Then they shuffled me back into the original security line, again for no apparent reason. Finally, I managed to hop up to the line, drop my bags off, and hobble over to security. All through this, I start cursing under my breath, a constant stream of expletives, punctuated by "hmm, Peter Strauss." Yes, on my way out of the city, I finally had a random celebrity sighting. The expletive stream continued. They were shuffling us off to the international terminal to get through security. (Figure the logic of this. 23 people processed, requiring four security people, two bus drivers, and two separate buses. This can't be an effective method, over simply going through the line.)

So instead of a quick escape from the city, I was stuck for another three hours, and I had no interest in being there. My head really had gone off the scale, and with my Tylenol in the checked luggage, I was facing a long trip. It only got worse when I realized the new flight wasn't a breakfast flight, and then got further worse when I realized my lack of layover in Chicago wouldn't allow me time to eat. So upon landing in Pittsburgh, my day was burnt, my hunger was extreme, and my head wouldn't stop pounding.

So that's it. My big vacation. I thank everyone who I met along the way, and those of you who slogged through this.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I Remember California
Day 7

Preface: Allow me to explain. Unless you are a blood relation (and dear God, if you are, I hope you're not reading this), I don't know you longer than I've known Ryan. And so when he asked me to be in their wedding party, well, these things cannot be refused. Even more ironic, (or moronic), I was present when he proposed to Candy. Stupidly, I thought this was a running gag between them, and didn't recognize it at the time. Oh, well.
So this explains why I was out in the middle of California on a hot day, overdressed in a suit jacket, looking for a winery. Candy's from Gilroy, and that's about 10 miles south of Morgan Hill, where I was driving around. I ended up stopping at the library, I had been stupid about the whole map thing, and being unable to get internet access since LA, I was mildly lost. Thankfully, I found a local bus map that happened to have the road I needed on it, and I was on my way.
I made the winery on time, in fact a little early. We went through the paces three times, once too slow, once too fast, third time just right. The fact that we were doing this to procession music culled from a Flash game was only the first twist in this affair.

After school, Ryan got a job in northern Virginia, and then worked to put together his own company with some partners. He also got involved with a circle of geeks online. I mean that in all connotations, his circle is geeky, they wouldn't argue it. I wouldn't argue that you folks aren't geeks either. There's no question of degree or anything like that. It's just a different group, with a different form of art. As a result, I was they guy in the wedding party who was "the friend from before the internet." Candy and Ryan met online, through mutual interests six years ago, and three years ago she moved out his way. The bad part is, I probably should see them more often than I do. I just never seem to be in the DC area when I'm not hauling an entire team.

I checked into the hotel, and left a message for my parents. Yes, they were involved in this as well. They had flown into SF on the Tuesday, and now on the Thursday, they were due to meet up with me. They weren't yet there, so I laid out for a while. The hotel was finally set up to handle wireless correctly so I checked my mail, and found that Ken was finally getting some press. And they almost got NAQT's full name right, even. I had seen some of it before I left, but he was starting to get into that range where he combined the inevitability of Paul Michael Larson with the creeping doom feel of the baby carriage going down the stairs in the Battleship Potemkin. And it's always cool to be able to say, "hey, I work with that guy." Cool points by association are still cool points. (A side note: at this year's July 4 picnic, I had the following exchange with my cousin. Him: "Have you seen this guy on Jeopardy?" DEK: "Yeah, he's in the company with me." Him: "You know, I figured that.")

So we went to lunch, wedding party, families, all of us. A good meal, and good friends. After the food, we headed back to the hotel. Again, my folks hadn't shown up. At that point, I decided to crack my gift basket, it was very Gilroy-centric. I got a jar of pickled garlic, and it was blasting through the glass. When I drove past the town the day before, I had the same experience. Fortunately, there was a mini-fridge I could block the garlic off.

The one remaining duty for the day was to go get the tux fitting. So all nine of us piled into two cars and drove up to San Jose, where the Men's Warehouse lay in wait. I've had issues with these people in the past. They've been immensely unhelpful in the past (It's the only place where my size has ever been an issue.) and their handling of my fitting in Pittsburgh was outstandingly screwed up. (They managed to botch the order by not finding the party registration, and they are apparently using a measurement system not used by other places.) Well, when we got there, we discovered they didn't have their plan together at this place either. A minor thing, they had the wrong color shirts for some of us. Smooth.

So this was my first tux experience, and well, it was interesting. Foremost among the experiences is the realization that my butt was simply not involved in the process. That's not to say it didn't fit, or that I was wearing a tent back there, it was just the combination of lightweight fabric, and loose fit design, that I spent most of the day with the sneaking suspicion I was accidentally mooning all those gathered here today. Not fun, but I guess I looked all right.

After that, one of the guys, suggested we hit a record store nearby. Well, it was sort of nearby. Five of us piled into a rental convertible and rolled around San Jose, looking for the local Rasputin Music. We got a little lost, and I got a little whipped by being in the back between two dudes with much longer hair than myself. I approved of the logo on their bags, which is Rasputin either offering a blessing, or telling people "five bucks says I can bounce this bottle cap of that doofus' forehead." I also managed to pick up a copy of the album Mr. Bad Example, I had been desperately searching for a copy of "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" and by the end of the trip back, one of the guys was really digging the title track.

By that time the bride and bridesmaids had finished up at the salon, and we met them for dinner. Typical sushi place, and one more thing I can't necessarily get in PA was off the list.

We drove back to the hotel, and I discovered my parents were finally in. I checked in with them, and then slipped down to the pool. My folks dropped down for a couple minutes to see the bride and groom. Ryan refers to my parents as his auxilliary parents, and Candy had always wanted to meet them. I assume that went well, my folks left soon after, and Candy retired. Thus the heavy drinking began.

It was an odd bachelor party, easily the first I'd seen where one of the activities was IRC. (Told you these were geeks. Different from us, but still the same.) We told stories, great tall tales, and occasional lapses into the truth. It was a good last night for him. Throughout it all, Ryan never wavered once, there was no doubt in his mind that this was the right course. I suppose that surprised some, but not me. Last year, during the wedding of Andy, Ryan's brother, I shot a picture of Ryan and Candy dancing. I don't think I've ever seen anything more certain in my life.

Day 8
The wedding was at 4. I woke at 11, found my folks, and headed out to lunch. Not bad, though I was running on a streak of Mexican that needed adjustment, and that didn't happen. About one o'clock, I was sitting back out at the pool. The bridal party had picked up In-n-Out Burger to go, and the orders came back just after I did. A discussion of the secret menu led to google searching, and I discovered that "animal style" also extends to fries. I filed that away for later.

By three we were at the winery. Three-thirty, we were dressed. Three-fifty, we were assembled. Three groomsmen, two bridesmaids, one bridesmen, one best man, one man of honor. (apparently balancing the male-female ratio is a universal problem) I noted that the English language wouldn't survive this wedding. Four o'clock, we made our spots, and by 4:04, we began. The wind picked up a little, and blew out the candle just as it was lit. Candy came close to crying, but held up wonderfully. As for the rest of us, it had been dry out there for a while, so if anyone asks, we're blaming the dust.

It all worked out. Andy came through with a great speech, touching all the historical bases I knew too well. The cake was a magnificent work of art, and the winery's open bar justified the location. I didn't have to dance much, though I didn't get left out. I got plenty of pictures, a reasonable substitute for the garter, and I apologize if I made the bridesmaid I escorted sick.

There's an entire assembly of pictures here and here, I suspect there's good blackmail material. You can get the pictures I took of the wedding here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Day 4
Even shorter.

Having concluded the first quarter of the trip, I moved on to the next leg. Santa Barbara. I have to say that one of the biggest headaches of this trip was how I was bound by other people's schedules. For example, the original plan was going to be driving up to Morgan Hill from LA, then Santa Barbara after the wedding. A flight to Amsterdam and my cousin's odd schedule, where he'd be driving California in the opposite direction, put that plan to waste. So there I found myself, making the best of it.

It's only a two hour drive from LA to Santa Barbara, but I took it very leisurely. It was unfortunately cloudy for most of the trip, and though I stopped for pictures on numerous occasions, there's little there to see from my pictures, but rocks and water 1, 2, 3. When the top interesting picture is discovering a defrocked What-A-Burger in Oxnard, you can tell I'm struggling.

Utrecht will not be undersold, that's important to know. (I told you it was an underrated treaty.)

I picked up BP at her apartment, and we visited the pier before stopping for dinner (I screwed up and forgot my camera in the car). After dinner we drove up to the mission, and she helped me get a nice picture of the mission, which seemed to remind me of the cover of Hotel California.

Day 5.
Amsterdam was driving me nuts, and that's all I'll say on the matter. I spent the morning at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. 1,2 It was good exercise for me, and I got a few ideas for things to grow in the garden (specifically something called hummingbird sage, which would kill two of my problems at once.) From there I took a walk back down the pier 1,2,3, snagged a fish taco (boosting my animals devoured in taco form count to 4 on the trip), then went over to the art museum. Santa Barbara's art museum is nice enough, but it's not going to earn me any points anytime soon. Once BP was done with work, we headed over to her favorite barbeque place, where she introduced me to buffalo ribs (not buffalo wing flavored ribs, but actual bison.) We then went out to a film, and I've got to say, there's something in being the perfect audience for Troy (to mock it anyway).

Day 6
Because of the oddities of the wedding, I needed to be in Morgan Hill at 11AM the next day, so I couldn't stay another night in Santa Barbara, but I didn't need to push anything on my way up. Lacking a better plan, a slow run up the 1 was in order. I started heading up around 11, and by noon I had passed San Simeon, and had pulled off for some pictures. I lucked out. It was seal season, and so I got some shots of the seals laying out in the sun. I didn't manage to capture the sound they make. The best approximation I can give you is to take a stuck drain, unclog it slightly, then repeatedly breathe in through your nose while your sinus is clogged. That's about the noise mix you're talking about with the seals. On the other side of the dunes, the big attractions were the squirrels. I have to say that that is one incredibly fat squirrel.

All things being equal, I probably shouldn't have done the 1. There's something inherently fraught about combining me driving alone, while at the same time trying to take pictures out the side window, on a nice twisting turning road with little to no margin for error. That I didn't wreck the car is a major tribute to something.

The one bad spot of this section was the tourist trap. Just as I passed a gas station and lodge, I heard the low gas bell. Knowing I had about 20 miles, and noticing I had no way to turn around, I carried on for 8 more miles, and pulled into the tourist trap. I caught them before they tried to fill me up at $3.49/gal. but I needed 5 bucks worth if I wanted out of the forest. The irony is of course, the gas prices outside of this weren't insane at any other point in the trip. Since I also hadn't eaten, I got nailed by a $1.50 Coke can, and $1.99 Doritos. Admittedly, the Ranchero Doritos were good, and not available in PA.

I ended up hitting Monterey around 3:30, too late for either of my two options there, the aquarium or the wharf(Cannery Row). Failing that I finally had lunch. I decided I needed to check out the local chains, and ended up at a Jack In The Box. All right, but nothing special. Free from the wild ride, I sat staring out at the parking lot and the trees bounding it. It got me thinking about the highway system, and how unexpected/wideranging/pervasive (choose your own connotation) its influence is. The trees were selected to go there because they'd fit parameters sufficient to survive and look correct by the highway. The food I was eating was standardized because people expect that standardization as they travel. The vacation I was on would not have been possible without the roads, and the people I was seeing wouldn't have been out there because they wouldn't have had the mobility. In short, everything I surveyed was a product of the road. Heady stuff, and I didn't even need a shake.

I holed up at a hotel, a nice enough one, finding myself tired and more than willing to crash hard. As a bonus, they were having a wine tasting of the local product. Not bad. I thought I'd have a shot at wireless, but no dice. After a late night run for takeout dinner, I crashed. Tomorrow, I had a rehearsal to make.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Day 3
Sunday can be a much faster description because it didn't have nearly the photos. The morning started out questing for wireless. I hadn't had any luck since Pittsburgh, so we headed to the one place in the city I figured it was available, the only Panera in town, only to find their location was having IT trouble. No luck there. Facing failure, we decided I'd simply upload using Joe's computer that night.

Here's some photos from the morning drive:
We both see the superego in the troika that is ego: Wal-Mart ball :: id: Evil Otto. Not to mention the random typo in the sign below him.

Joe describes this as the most inexplicably unparsable sign in his neighborhood, and that's saying something.

Decadent Uzbeks!

After the Panera failure, and a walk through an abandoned book store, we headed down to Hollywood, figuring I needed to see the Chinese Theatres and the rest of the tourist traps. We ended up also seeing Dodgeball, seemingly the only appropriate response to the night before.

Sign I had recovered from the impact of last night:
Joe: Noting this image before I snapped it: "Natalie Wood's shoeprints don't drain well."
DEK: (One second later) "Neither did Natalie Wood."

All the great dangers to American democracy in one location: Serial killers and freemasons.

I'm taking this in the event X Bowl ever gets resurrected.

Image double feature: I kept getting the notion of Kraft Sushi and Macaroni, it's the Sushiest. Then I looked next door at Mishima, which from here appears to be a lighting store. Fascist lighting that explodes the light bulbs via seppuku.

We went in quest of a view of the LA River after the film, and sort of got it. I'm not going to worry about it. Cement is cement. After stopping for dinner, and then for supplies for the apartment, Joe and I headed out for the last bit of LA entertainment of the first leg. Joe happened to find an announcement of the band Pretzel Logic, a Steely Dan cover band. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday night, though it was kind of odd having to both explain it to Joe, and try and parse it myself. (The band went deep into the early albums where I don't have the knowledge.)

I Remember California
Day 2

The morning session of this day finds us heading out to the La Brea Tar Pits, which is one of those locations that Joe had been looking to see, and I figured I wasn't going to see something like it elsewhere. La Brea would qualify. The thing I wasn't prepped for was the notion that the Tar Pits are not really out somewhere. I was fully prepped for them to be isolated off in some desert area. Shows what I know.
Here we see some of the pictures from the trip.

On our way we find possibly the most offensive billboard ever. Partially hidden there, it reads "Like heaven, we're a gated community."

I am prepared to go.

Those of you who have need for it, this would be a good image to type "PWN3D!" over. (Incidentally, a good way to tick off those people who do that sort of thing is to actually pronounce "pwned" as if it were a Welsh word.)

In conjunction with the previous image, this pair of statues teaches kids that their parents can be taken from them at any time. Thus LA school children can be scarred for life by leaving suspicious black stains outside their parents' bedroom.

This sign really speaks for itself. Of course, upon entering, we couldn't find any birds.

I'd just like to point out the fact that this is a Giant Sloth skeleton, and frankly if they were this size today, we wouldn't be commenting on their speed.

With a little more equipment, a bucket of tar could be the next Bowflex. I was a little wary of this station, I was kind of figuring you'd discover what it's like to be trapped in tar by pulling the lever on the trap door immediately below you.

Here we see the California condor fossil, in its favored "who's the condor?" position.

I botched the first of the two pictures here, but the first is a closeup of a sign for Knight family portraits. The Knight in question is the guy who sketched most of the animals whose fossils were found at the pits. The interesting thing about him is that they basically say he was working from a mix of existing animals and his own imagination. In other words, he made it all up. Now that's reasonable, but one has to question the whole thing when we see his family portraits, and... well, take a look at the lower right. I guess the notion of adopting adorable babies from foreign lands is older than we thought.

Here we see a positively Khmer Rouge style display of dire wolves. Dire wolves appear to have been the ancient California equivalent of Wile E. Coyote, just judging from the number of times these suckers must have fallen in the pit in quest for prey. They're the most common fossil to come out of the pits, and Joe suggested that if there's a paleontologist pecking order, you have to apprentice two years just cleaning up dire wolves.

Fenced off from the rest of us we can see the paleontologist's natural environment. The little fellers were a little shy on the day of our visit.

With this display of animatronics, we can see that Chuck E. Cheese La Brea has taken an edgier approach than most to Pizza Time Theatre.

I've botched the lighting on this, but here you can see the two funny parts of this. Upper right: the history even goes back to the time when molecules roamed the earth. Lower right: Notice how the ancient mammoth immediately evoluted into spacemen.

In 10000 years, scientists will struggle to taxonomically place the traffic cone, probably deciding to put it with foraminifera.

I just love this sign. Just because it's so particular for the area.

Joe suggested the caption for this one: Pictured: Giant Sloth. Also pictured: Statue.

Getting back to Mr. Knight's flights of fancy in drawing the animals, we see this: his take on the old question "What would a bear look like if it wore Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion makeup?"

Judging from it being fenced off, I think the viewpoint of the conservationist won.

Following that we decided to roll down along the coast in hopes of finding a nice beach. The one we found was nice enough, though by being cloudy, cold, and rocky, it probably wasn't what Joe was aiming to show visitors.

From there, we headed east, towards the foothills and through the Cleveland National Forest. On our way to Lake Elsinore. Lake Elsinore has the Storm, which was the closest minor league baseball to our trip.

Pictures from this leg:
Yeah, we happened to drive past San Juan Capistrano. And I do mean drive past, we noticed the gift shop in front of it before we realized it was right there. About a block south, we ended up at a Mexican restaurant and ate an early dinner. I tried out the goat tacos here. Nice enough, and I now know how to handle that goat if he gets off the neighbors' farm again, but I gotta tell you, it's no ostrich.

The Cleveland National Forest is some very fun driving. And there were traffic signs I hope to never see again. Like the arrow doing a complete 360 around a 15MPH speed limit. That should be reserved exclusively for offramps. All we could figure it that it was all for the best. The best way to preserve the Cleveland National Forest was to keep it a safe distance from Cleveland. (Sorry, Pittsburgh humor there.)

Lake Elsinore. Joe noted he's one of the few people to have visited both Lake Elsinore and Elsinore.

Here you can see the Storm logo staring back from the Jumbotron. It was free cap night for the first 1500, but we missed out. Supposedly it's one of the best sellers in the minors, two evil eyes staring out at you. The storm also have TWO mascots, which seems a grand overbudgeting.

Here we see a scene from the next JK Rowling book: Harry Potter and the Soul-Sucking Summer Job.

If you zoom in on this, you can see the PSA for preserving the water table, with the slogan "Only Rain in the Storm Drain." I really want Cypress Hill to do the TV ad.

This ad combination just blew my mind. Perfectly rational, just not a combination I'd ever figure would come up.

I had to take a picture of this, not only because it's amusing, it's positive proof that the money for the second mascot forced them to get a factory seconds ball pit.

On the way back from taking that last picture was the event that colored the whole trip. But before that I stopped off at the clubhouse store to buy a hat. While there, I saw a poster detailing all the current logos of minor league baseball. This I had to have. However, the cashier managed to personify dodgy, by being unable to either: allow me to pay by credit card, pay attention, present a reason why he couldn't roll the poster up, or explain himself. Very odd, very unsatisfying, and I ultimately decided the poster wouldn't survive transport. I then had to get the guy to give me change back.

Having been rendered punchdrunk from that exchange, we headed to concessions. Joe wanted a dog, and I needed something to drink. Just as Joe got his dog, everyone around me heard this terrific crash. A massive thump. I heard something different, two thumps. Then I felt pain. I turned around, wondering who had bumped into me, only to see a kid running away with the ball. I then asked the immortal question as I put my hand to the back of my head: "Was that the ball that hit me?" It appears that it was, I apparently got clipped by part of the ball which then continued on to hit the plexiglass window of the concession stand. Outside of a nice welt, I was okay, except for the fact that I then didn't try to get the Pepsi for free, so obviously some damage had occurred. After that, we had the running joke "If you can dodge a ball, you can dodge a ball. You can't dodge a ball, therefore..."

If I was having any damage, what we next saw at the game was enough to make me think I was hallucinating. After taking our seats, the announcer cheerfully stated at the next inning break "It's the Nut Sack Race!! Brought to you by Corn Nuts!" Fans of Dysfunctional Family Circus just cracked up there. Here we see the nut sack race, in all its glory. They handed us a couple bags of corn nuts as we left the park.

Nothing I can do with this picture, outside of just putting after the last paragraph.

Outside the stadium, there's wireframe sculptures of a pitcher and a hitter. We thought they looked a great deal like Tron.

I promise the rest of the vacation won't nearly take as long to write up.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I Remember California
Day 1
I'm amazed I can function at 4am. I think I got some sleep, the night before, but it was both shallow and fitful. After getting dropped off at the airport at 4:30(my mother is correct in that I owe her a big one for the ride), I made a final reload of my edit files for NAQT, and got my first of 3 breakfasts on the day.
The first flight was PIT-DAL, and I spent most of it doing edits. I'm coming to realize that the year doesn't end in quiz bowl any more, it just means that the summer is your time to build up surplus for the future. (more on this someday, suffice it to say I wholly believe that moving towards a surplus would cause increases in question quality that would dwarf everything we've seen in my playing career.) Got done with that with about 20 minutes to go in the flight.
I'd never flown into Dallas before, and it's an odd airport. It seems kind of frozen in 1970's public architecture (makes sense, given that was the money time), and frozen in 1970's typography (Signs are all white Helvetica on blue plastic.) Add to that it's basically three semicircles, which only adds to the THX1138/Rollerball feel, everything seems vaulted out, and weirdly non-linear. Here was where I got my first taste of "Dwight wants free wireless." I'll freely admit I'm spoiled by this, despite having it for only a month. But then again, I've been able to use it in Panera (two locations between my office and home) and the airport. So when I see that I have a choice between two networks, and neither is free at the Dallas airport, my cheap sense rebels against me. I wasn't about to pay for either, figuring I'd be able to do this somewhere else. (this is called foreshadowing, people.)
That plan shot, I proceed to wander around the airport looking for breakfast. The Pittsburgh airport is rather amazing for the way that they force a lot of the restaurants to be open for breakfast, so every single place that isn't McDonald's, Starbucks, or Au Bon Pain has a sign for "Hash Browns, Eggs, Toast, $4.99" in exactly the same style one would find outside the airport for "Loading Zone ONLY." In Dallas, they are not so formalized, though I wouldn't have minded the BBQ place not having that exact Pittsburgh menu available. I considered the TGIFriday's with actual pseudo-breakfast food until I checked the menu prices and discovered I'd be getting bar food at minibar prices. So I went over and got a tea. I also discovered that in Texas, commie red teddy bears who mess with Texas will get theirs. I also discovered there's a group going on a Christian fellowship run down to Central America, wearing t-shirts marked "I Believe in Belize". I just can't figure out what Belize has done to require this public reassurance.
On the Dallas-LAX flight, I nod off about two minutes after finishing the snack, thus wasting my only chance all trip to "see a film for free". Instead, I wake up about ten minutes from the end of Miracle, then I get scarred for life by my first ever encounter with the Richard Quest Experience. On the plus side, I wouldn't fall asleep for the rest of the flight. Can't sleep, Quest will eat me.
Landing in LA, I enter into a bright gray sky. Excellent. I was almost hoping for this, that California would be cooler and grayer than Pennsylvania. Yes, this is a function of me living in an air conditioned office all day, then getting blinded by afternoon sun as I drive home. I knew I'd be driving a lot, and I didn't want to deal with it first day out.
After spending one hour in the rental car line (!?!), I pulled off the lot and headed south. No reason for this, I just had an afternoon to kill. I wasn't going to meet Joe until 4, and I had four hours before that. So, I headed down the 1 for a while. Discovered where El Segundo is (didn't stop anywhere, didn't want to leave my wallet.) Ended up driving through most of the HS districts that have come to HSNCT from SoCal. Discovered a couple oddities of the road like Enya Sushi. Then proceed to take some coastal pictures as I drive. At some point I turn off and end up in a housing development which consumes me with the question of "okay, how much of the housing cost is markup for LA, and how much is markup for the beach." I never answer the question, because frankly, I'm sure it's one where if you have to ask, you can't afford it.
Heading back I miss the street that is the 1, and realize I have to turn around. Half a block later, I see a sign for a used book store. As much as this screams fraught, I think I got away easy (3 books). I then head back up to meet Joe. On the way, I discover this scene, which is probably very similar to what our troops saw entering Baghdad, only with more LakerDrama and fewer tanks (I'd say fewer Humvees, but you know...), and this mural/sculpture, which either is a true sign that we're really not emphasizing geography enough, or somebody bronzed a child's map puzzle too early.
After picking up Joe from work, we drive back to his apartment, deposit stuff, then head out for Mexican. His selection, El Coyote, will be recommended for three reasons.
1. Supposedly it was the last place Sharon Tate ate before the Mansons killed her, making it a cheaper replacement for Mezzaluna on your LA serial killer dining tour.
2. They do not water down their margaritas. In fact, I think they tequila down them.
3. Ostrich tacos. You're just going to have to trust your favorite stunt carnivore on this. It may have been the marination of the meat, but still.

After that we run over to Amoeba Records, where I discover that in fact, yes, Tom, there is a band called DEK. More importantly, I'm a little frightened to know that on their album are two tracks. One called "Groundhog" and one called "I Hate DEK". Didn't buy it, though, and I don't plan on suing for defamation or infringement. (Besides, Donald E. Knuth would kick our mutual butts.) After that, we headed over to pick up Jefferson, Joe's roommate (finding this abomination of the English language (and possible disproving of the "marketing cannot defeat recursion" theory along the way, this weird juxtaposition of elements of the Muppets, Chaplin, and the topplable Saddam statue, and something Craig's been waiting for for months, an image of the Frank Gehry KFC.), and then Sara(possibly spelled without an h, forgot to check), and ended up with a couple drinks in a bar lying along Hollywood's Walk of Fame. (This picture is here just to scare the crap out of BillV.) After that, I got to use a couch for crashing, and the longest of the days was over.

Possible happy fun image caption contest (we may have a couple of these, I took lots of pictures):
What else can this be the international symbol for? Comment below.