Batman: Kidnapped!

Here is the latest Play Cole film. Jon has gotten quite skilled with stop motion animation.

Killer Croc helps the Riddler kidnap Batman. Then he wants to renegotiate his fee. (SFW)



This is one of the sillier on line quizzes I took. But I do like the result.

What's your slogan?

Your Slogan Should Be

Cromely. Hand-built by Robots.


Bread and Ink Cafe

Bread and Ink Cafe
3610 SE Hawthorne BLVD
Portland, OR 97214

My GF and I stopped by the Bread and Ink Cafe in Portland for a late brunch.

The place as a nice feel to it. It feels like a neighborhood place that is trying to be a little sophisticated, and yet stay grounded. For example, they had small candles on the white table clothes, had nice cloth napkins, but outside, still had chalk drawings on the side walk directing people to the walk up waffle window.

My GF ordered the Belgian Waffles; I opted for the Eggs Benedict. The portions were surprisingly reasonable. They were neither skimpy nor obnoxious.

The roasted potatoes were very good, as was the spicy syrup for the waffles. The hollandaise and eggs were bright yellow.

The coffee was a bit disappointing; it was like overcooked truck stop coffee. Maybe that would be okay in a diner elsewhere in the country, but I have higher expectations for coffee in Portland and Seattle.

The restaurant itself could use a good cleaning. It doesn't look unsanitary, but the decorations and lamps look like they haven't been scrubbed in a while.

They paint job on the walls uses nice, muted colors, but was sloppily done. It's evident the owners didn't bring in professional painters.

Overall, though, the Bread and Ink Cafe has a nice, comfortable feel to it. And if you find yourself on Hawthorne BLVD in need of a good, late breakfast, it's worth checking out.


A wall of books Part 08: The Pilgrimage

I took my GF to Portland for her birthday this weekend. And like every good trip to Portland, it involves a pilgrimage to Powell's.

I spend most of my time in Powells in the main entry room. That's where they showcase new arrivals and the discount books. In a relatively small space, I get to browse a wide array of genres and discover new books and authors.

This time I also made it into the gold and blue rooms before it was time to go.

I behaved this trip and didn't spend too ridiculous an amount of money. I probably did overpay for a signed first edition of a Jasper Fforde book, but that's okay. I did really enjoy the other Fforde book I read.

Here's what I now must find time to read. Somehow.


Pelican Chess

For my birthday a few years ago, my GF got me a very nice chess set. The pieces and board were made of stone, and had a nice pink/black look to them.

I set it up, but I didn't really have a place to keep it on display. I ended up tucking it into the corner of a bookshelf. It got dusty and I was always worried about damaging it. I couldn't come up with a good storage solution.

Until recently.

You may recall my journey across SoCal to retrieve my box. That Pelican case is filled with demo equipment for work. It does a great job keeping that stuff safe even in the hands of shipping companies and hotel staffs. Why not use one at home?

I picked up a Pelican 1550 with Pick and Pluck foam. This foam pulls apart in rectangles so I can custom fit each piece in the case.

Last night, I spend 2 hours cleaning chess pieces and plucking foam rectangles. As a result, I now have a custom storage case for my chess peices and board. I don't have to worry about damaging them or losing a piece.

I'm quite pleased with the case.

I was originally going to pick one up a Fry's, but I found a better selection of the online here. The case arrived quickly, and it cost far less than it would have at retail.

Pelican Cases may not be cheap, but they are awesome.


Tagged and Released for research

Over the weekend, Haley Hughes at The Beacon tagged me. She's got some great stuff on her blog.

Here are the rules:

The Rules:

  1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
  4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’ve been tagged, and to read your blog.
This stuff is kind of fun and challenging. I have to come up with 8 things about me that I haven't written about much, and yet they can't be things that I won't write about.

So here goes...

  1. I remember the moment I learned to read. I was "reading" a book shortly before bed and all of a sudden I wasn't seeing individual words and letter any more, but I was actually understanding it. It was a moment when the light suddenly went off and I got it.
  2. When I was unemployed in Boise I spent a day as a temp at the Powerbar factory. For several hours I pulled the wrapper off defective Powerbars (too heavy, too light, or leaky) and threw away the wrappers. The Powerbar itself, we would dump into a trash can that was filled with defective Powerbar material. Then they would run it through the machine again.
  3. I spent two weeks working the graveyard shift at a Minimart in MT. I like my current job better.
  4. When I was 18 I got a ticket for illegal dumping in NYC. I was disposing of old construction equipment (I'll tell the whole story another time). The cops threatened to seize the car.
  5. The only character I like in The Lion King is Rafiki. The rest are all jerks.
  6. I once gave a speech in a college speech tournament where I actually jumped up on the table and scared everyone. I stood on the table for half the speech.
  7. I have flow about 320,000 actual butt-in-seat miles on Alaska Airlines. Just 680,000 more and I'll be MVP Gold for life. My current actual miles for all airlines flown is well over 500,000. You can see my public flight profile here. And that doesn't include most of my flights from the 80s and 90s.
  8. The biggest high I get is when I give an awesome speech/presentation/performance to a large, live audience. It makes my teeth tingle.

The next step is going to be to tag 8 people. But I think I'm going to skip this test. Instead, I'll encourage you to self tag, if that's legal in your state. Go ahead and list your 8 items in comments, or blog about them post a link here.

I wonder what the typical response rate to a tagging is...


Good to know

I was worried this quiz would stick me in a suburb someplace. Or a suburb no place.

You Should Live in a Big City

You don't want anything in particular out of life... you want it all.

You crave new and exciting experiences. And you get bored fairly easily.

Only very big cities can keep you entertained and stimulated.


Glasses and travel

If you where glasses, you should travel with a copy of you prescription.

Last night, I found my prescription sunglasses. I kind of knew where they were for the past month, but with the move, I never bothered to find them and put them where they belong.

They actually belong in the car since that's when I am most likely to use them.

So I brought them down to the car this morning when I left for the airport. I took off my regular glasses, and put on the sunglasses.

I got to the airport, dropped off the car, took the shuttle to the terminal, got my boarding pass, checked my bag, and headed off to security. The TSA ID checker asked me to take off my glasses when she looked at my passport.

That's when I realized my regular glasses, which should have been on my face, were instead sitting on the front seat of my car.

I had thought the airport looked a little darker than normal.

So I headed off to my flight wearing sunglasses, jeans, and a Carroll College sweatshirt.

I'll be in California for several days of company meetings. And I am no where near cool enough to get away with wearing sunglasses all day. Especially in business casual wear.

When my plane (the Alaska Airlines Starliner (second time this year)) landed in Orange County, I took a cab to Lenscrafters to solve the problem.

An hour and a half later, and $275 poorer, I had new, regular glasses.

And I was able to take care of this because my eye doctor in Seattle suggested I carry a copy of my prescription in my travel papers for just this sort of emergency.

Mt Ranier peeks above the clouds on 2008-04-20, as seen from AS382 (SEA-SNA) N569AS.


Tulips and Hail

Today my GF and I took our annual trip north to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I wrote about our previous trip here.

Usually by now the tulips are in full bloom and the daffodils are dead. This spring, though, has been unusually cool so the daffodils were still in full bloom and the tulips were just coming in. There weren't the wide swaths of brilliant color in the fields that we've seen in years past, but it was still a great day with plenty to see and experience.

A key element of the Tulip Festival is the annual Downtown Mt Vernon Street Fair.

I'm a sucker for a street fair. I love browsing the different booths. There's the local photo booth, the hammock booth, the soap booth, the leather goods booth, the windmill booth, and all the other regulars that sell their wares at every fair in the State of Washington. You've probably seen them all at other fairs, too.

Instead of pleasant spring air with a slight chill to it, we got hail. And the hail storm seemed to last for about a half hour. It was cold, hard, and copious. I don’t recall the last time I saw a storm like this. We got slammed with it.

Naturally, we cut our street fair time short, but despite that annoyance, the storm was fascinating and beautiful.

2008-04-19 Sleet Storm in MT Vernon (5)

2008-04-19 Sleet Storm in MT Vernon (12)

2008-04-19 Sleet Storm in MT Vernon (1)

2008-04-19 Sleet Storm in MT Vernon

A short drive took us out of the storm and on to the tulip fields. We headed to the Roozengaarde garden to pick up souvenirs and, of course, spend some time with the flowers.

Roozengaarde is a more formal way of viewing tulips than tromping about in the open fields. We, however, were pretty much done with weather at this point, and opted to skip the open fields and instead spend time in the garden.

The flowers were as beautiful as ever. And the day's precipitation left the delicate petals covered with rain drops.

It also gave me an opportunity to play with the zoom/macro lens I got for Christmas.

It's probably pretty obvious, but I haven't done any Photoshop work on these pictures. There are a few reasons for that .

  1. I prefer the "natural" look
  2. I don't have Photoshop skills
  3. I don't have Photoshop
  4. I'm lazy.

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (32)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (44)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (30)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (23)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (22)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (18)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (17)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (16)

2008-04-19 Tulips etc at Rozengarde (6)

You can see more of my Tulip Festival Pictures here.

The Tulip Festival is always worth the trip. And though the official events are slowly wrapping up, the tulips are just now waking up to welcome visitors.


Hot Pockets versus Lean Pockets

2008-04-18 Hot Pockets Cheese Burger Front_Page_1


2008-04-18 Lean Pockets Cheese Burger Front_Page_1

I'm not one to eschew diet foods just because they are diet foods. I avoid them because most of them taste nasty.

There are some products, though, where the diet version is just as good as the regular version. Dr. Pepper is like that. I honestly can't taste any difference between Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper. In that case, why not buy the diet version?

This brings me to the question of the day: is there a difference between Hot Pockets and the leaner Lean Pockets?

My GF and I gave it a try with the cheeseburger version. I microwaved one of each and let her try to taste the difference. Unfortunately, it was obvious which was the diet version. It was pale and limp looking. The regular version may not have looked healthy with the cheese-like product oozing out the seam, but it certainly appeared tasty.

We both tried each version and came to the same conclusion. The filling tastes pretty much the same, but the bread (or hot pocket pocket) was quite different. The Lean bread was rather nasty. It was spongy and overly sweet.

So sadly Lean Pockets do not taste nearly as good as Hot Pockets.

Should I eat the lean version anyway to save the calories? According to the nutritional information, that would be stupid.

Here is a comparison among Cheeseburger Hot Pockets, Cheeseburger Lean Pockets, and Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets (which are awesome).

Nutrition comparison

Click here for a larger version

There are a few interesting things there. First of all, there are two servings per container. That means one serving equals one hot pocket.

Are they kidding? One Hot Pocket is not a serving. It's half a serving. When you put two items in the box like that, you know your customers are going to cook and eat them both at once. What are they thinking?

Are they trying to artificially lower the calorie count? Do they think that Hot Pocket customer actual cares about the calories? If they did, they wouldn't be eating microwavable frozen treats.

Is that really going to influence their purchasing decision versus other freezer case snacks? Do they expect me to make one Hot pocket and then put the other one back in the freezer? Do they even know me at all?

So how much do I save with the Lean Pockets?

The traditional Cheeseburger Hot Pocket is 310 calories per [sigh] serving. The Cheeseburger Lean Pockets are 280 calories each.

So with all that focus on being a lean, healthy alternative, they save only 30 calories. I'm pretty sure I can work off those 30 calories ranting at my keyboard.

Not only is the calorie savings minimal, the Lean Pockets have more carbohydrates than the regular Hot Pockets (40 g vs. 37 g).

The Lean Pockets do have less fat (7 g vs. 13 g) but is that enough reason to switch to Lean?

Considering the nasty taste of the bread and minimal calorie savings, the answer it no. Stick with the real stuff.

2008-04-18 Hot Pockets Cheese Ham Front_Page_1

Actually, don’t. The Cheeseburger ones aren't that great anyway. Instead go for the classic Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets. Not only are these tastier than the Cheeseburger ones, they are also lower in calories. The Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets have just 290 calories per pocket. That's 20 fewer than Cheeseburger Hot Pockets, and only 10 more than Cheeseburger Lean Pockets.

Here's how the three things rank on health:

  • Cheeseburger Hot Pocket: Bad
  • Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket: Bad
  • Cheeseburger Lean Pocket: Of course it's still bad for you. It's a frozen microwave meat pie.

Here's how they rank on taste:

  • Cheeseburger Hot Pocket: Ok.
  • Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket: Awesome
  • Cheeseburger Lean Pocket: Awful

I knew reading labels would only depress me.


Shatner-Palooza: Crazy Biker

If you see a crazy old man riding around SoCal on a motorcycle and bleeding, it just may be William Shatner.

From the StarPulse.com:

William Shatner discovered the perils of riding a motorcycle without any protective gear, when he crashed on a highway in California.

The reckless former Star Trek star refuses to pad up and rides around the state wearing just beach clothes - even after a crash that could have killed him.

He explains, "I think leather, and helmets and protective gear is foolish, in the hot California weather. I ride with sandals and shorts and a

"One time, I was driving along and the bike slide from under me, and I skidded across the two lane highway.

More here...

He seems to have forgotten he lacks a main deflector array.

Then again, he is the guy who sings "You're gonna die" on his recent album.


Stan Lee is crazy

Last month, Jon put together this Play Cole animation.

He took audio from Stan Lee's Fantastic Four introductions in the mid-90s and animated it with his action figures and digital camera.

The results are crazy.

Here's the YouTube page.


Turning 37

Today was my birthday, and I struggled with what to write today. I considered a lot of things:
  • Musings on turning 37
  • What I'm going to do with the remaining 90% of my time on Earth
  • The awesomeness of the the first episode of Battlestar Galactica this season
  • The sub-parness of the second episode of Battlestar Galactica this season
  • The merger announcement of Delta and Northwest
  • My prediction that we will see Continental buy Alaska (one reason I own Alaska stock)
  • And more...

In the end I got tired and discovered this quiz on Raine's blog.

Your Birthdate: April 14

You work well with others. That is, you're good at getting them to do work for you.

It's true that you get by on your charm. But so what? You make people happy!

You're dynamic, clever, and funny. And people like to have you around.

But you're so restless, they better not expect you to stay around for long.

Your strength: Your superstar charisma

Your weakness: Commitment means nothing to you

Your power color: Fuchsia

Your power symbol: Diamond

Your power month: May

Often these silly quizzes have some weird sense of accuracy. This one, I'm not so sure about.

I get by on my charm? Really? The extent of my charm is a collection of yellow stars, green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple horseshoes.

And I'm not sure they got the commitment part right either.

But if they are right, it looks like May will be an exciting month.

So what does your birthdate mean? Did the internet get it right?


Backup a Blogger Blog

There are two types of computer users in this world: those how have lost data, and those who will lose data. Regardless of what you do, it's important to back up your information.

That includes a blog.

Obviously, I use a free Blogger blog, Google's free blogging platform. I don't worry about a physical hard drive or server crash causing data loss. I'm reasonably certain Google has that covered.

But I could still fall victim to a password hack. Or Google could just decide to turn off my blog and erase it anytime they want. After all, it's a free service. If Google wants to, it can take its ball and go home anytime the mood strikes it.

I have read posts from several bloggers who felt Google unfairly locked them out. I also see horror stories in the Blogger help groups all the time, though those tend to be user error. There is a need to back it up.

There are several ways to go about doing it.

First of all, Blogger automatically emails me a copy each post I make, when I make it. So I have those posts in my email program.

Blogger does the same with comments. As long as I don't lose my email, I'll have the raw text backed up.

There are back up solutions that rely on RSS, though I haven't explored those in detail.

There are solutions that will download an entire blog as a file. But I haven't been thrilled with those either.

The solution I currently use to back up my blog is Wordpress.com

Wordpress.com is another free blog service like blogger. You go there, name your blog, and start creating posts.

The great thing about it, is the import post feature. Wordpress.com added this feature to make it easy to switch from Blogger to Wordpress. The system will grab your posts and simply repost them in your new blog. Unlike email, it will also grab all the comments people leave on a blog and keep them attached to the appropriate post.

Every few weeks, I log into Wordpress and import my new posts. Now I have an active back up. Cromely's World lives in both places.

If something goes wrong with Blogger, all I have to do is log into Wordpress and make my back up visible to the public. Cromely's World would be functioning at a new address, at about 85% of capability, in just a few minutes.

If you choose to use Wordpress.com as a back up for Blogger, there are a couple things you should keep in mind.

First, you should set the Wordpress.com version to private. You can always make it publicly available later. General Public Knowledge suggests that Google will punish sites that have duplicate content by making them appear much lower in search results. Hiding your backup means you don't have to worry about this. Plus, if you are trying to build an audience, you want to make sure they all go to one place to read and comment.

Second, Wordpress.com does not work with certain scripts. You can't embed Youtube videos, and services like Entrecard don't work.

Wordpress.com is a viable back up solution for Blogger blogs. It's not perfect, but it's free, easy, and fairly reliable. If you are not backing up your blog already, now would be a good time to start.


Now, I have to finish Super Mario Galaxy

Because this is coming out soon. It looks awesome.


What I did in training

I've been in a training class all week. Here's what I accomplished yesterday and today:

2008-04-08 Training Class Pipe Cleaners

2008-04-09 Training Class Pipe Cleaners

It was actually a pretty good class. The instructor set out piles of pipe cleaners, modeling clay, rubber dice and other little things specifically so we all had toys to play with a fidget with during the class. It was a way to minimize outside distractions and naps. And keeping my hands busy with pipe cleaners did leave my mind free to consider the material.

Until yesterday, I hadn't used pipe cleaners for more than 15 years.


Indian food in Irvine

A couple years ago I wrote about my favorite sushi place in Southern California -- Sushi Wasabi. I still go there everytime I come to Irvine, and even though I'm only in town once a month or so, they recognize me there.

But I have a new restaurant to visit when I don't feel like eel -- Saagar Fine Indian Cuisine.

It's just a few blocks from the John Wayne Airport (SNA) and is easily within walking distance of the SNA Hilton.

When I was there Monday night, the place was fairly empty. There was one other table of customers. But their party room was filled with the beat of exotic music and people in brightly colored outfits.

The food was excellent. I had the Paneer Pakora (basically Indian cheese sticks), Lamb Saag (lamb cooked in creamed spinach), and Garlic Nan (a roasted flatbread). The Paneer Pakora was very good. It was a nice way to start the meal, but wasn't overwhelming.

The Lamb Saag and Garlic Nan were fantastic, though. The flavors were rich and complex. The spices had some heat but weren't smacking me in the face with fire.

The service was quick, but I felt it was too attentive. Dinner was served in serving dishes and I really didn't need the servers to come over to my table everytime I almost emptied my plate so they could scoop more rice and lamb on to it. I can handle that myself. Despite that concern, the staff was pleasant.

I will be going back here again on some future trip.

If you are craving Indian food, check it out. Or if you just want something other than generic hotel food in SNA area, give Saagar a try.


I just went back on 2008-04-21, and this time I brought a group of people. It was still awesome.


Typing blind

Last week , on a flight to Reno, I struggled to rewrite some paragraphs about processor performance. I stared at the screen for a while. I typed some. I reread my reference material. I typed some more. I deleted some. But mostly I stared at the screen and grew progressively more annoyed with myself. I was stuck. Everything I did write was just terrible. And the words were flowing like dry asphalt.

So I closed my eyes.

I discovered this writer's block technique on another flight 6 years earlier. I close my eyes and type.

When I type with my eyes closed, the thoughts come faster and clearer. Perhaps it's because I have less sensory input to distract me. Maybe because I can't see what I'm writing, I'm not tempted to edit it. Or it could be that I'm fully engaged in the writing itself, and that frees the words.

Regardless, I finished my coffee, closed my eyes and typed out the five best paragraphs I wrote that day. After several minutes of this I opened my eyes and discovered my coffee mug was missing. A few moments later a puzzled flight attendant brought it back with more coffee.

So I took that blind writing, (eyes open now) cut it down a little, and I was done.

Typing without seeing makes it easier for me to write when I get stuck. And I even make fewer typos when I do it. Next time you're stuck, give it a try. Maybe I'm not the only weird one this works for.

The walkaround

2008-04-07 N562AS Horizontal Stabilizer (1)

Before every flight, one of the Pilots climbs down to the tarmac and inspects the airplane. They walk around, shine a flash light and poke their heads in spots.

I always thought this was rather pointless. Sure, it makes sense on a tiny aircraft where the main altimeter is your ear drums, but why do it on an airliner? Are they checking to see if they engines are there? I think there's an instrument for that. If there's anything wrong won't they see it in the cockpit? They've got more gauges and dials in there than a rotary phone factory.

And if the problem doesn't show up on their instruments, is a guy with epilets on his shirt and a tie going to see it while walking around the aircraft?

Apparently, yes.

What I though was an outdated FAA inspection procedure, or just good, old-fashioned tradition caused a 2.5 hour delay today.

I was on Alaska flight 382 from SEA to Orange County today. As we were getting settled, the pilot announced that the co-pilot found something during the walk around. There was a big dent in the horizontal stabilizer (the small wing at the back of the plane). And that dent could mess with the planes aerodynamics.

It was probably caused by a bird strike or foreign object on the runway when they landed. Regardless of the cause, before plane number N562AS could take off, the mechanics had to measure the dent.

A few minutes later the pilot announced they were working on it. I was in row 2 and got to hear some of the discussion. Apparently, the mechanics were using a magic marker in the process. I'm not sure why, but then again, I barely know what a horizontal stabilizer is so I'll take their word for it. I nodded off.

I woke up in my seat two hours later as they made another announcement about the delay. They were still working on it. Apparently the dent was big enough that they actually had to fix it. Don't you hate it when that happens your two year old aircraft? In the US fleet that's practically brand new.

They allowed people to get off to stretch and get food. I tried to go back to sleep. Unfortunately so many people got off they asked us all to get off, so it would be easier to check everyone back in when we reboarded. So it was official: nap time was over.

We deplaned, and then reboarded a half hour later. The rest of the flight was without adventure, and we reached SNA 157 minutes late.

Which is fine. Because incredibly forgettable flights are what most of us are looking for.


Life in the garden Part 06: The vegetative ICU

2008-04-05 Hydrangea

This is my pathetic Hydrangea, although it has proven itself to be a fairly tough one.

I got it about four years ago. It had large, full leaves and beautiful, fluffy blue flowers. It was almost falling out of the little nursery pot it came it. I moved it to a real planter shortly after getting it.

Eventually I upgraded it to a larger, fancier pot. By then, the summer was over, and it was preparing to sleep for the winter. I gave it some water.

The next week, the remaining leaves were drooping and the soil was dry. So I gave it water again.

A few days later, it was still thirsty and the soil was dry so I watered it again.

This went on for a couple weeks, and the plant got steadily worse.

For some of my other herbs I picked up a soil moisture sensor. When I checked the Hydrangea, I discovered that while the soil I could feel was dry, the soil deeper in the pot (where the roots were) was actually mud. The plant was drowning.

I put it up on a shelf, and stopped watering it. It turned from a lush bush to a collection of sticks. I checked the solid regularly, and waited until the deep soil was dry before I watered it again. That took about a year.

The plant lived, though. It grew some new leaves and buds. It even put out some pathetic looking green flowers.

This year it did a little better. It's been under intensive care for a while and started to put out some more leaves. It came through the winter in my apartment pretty well. But my recent move was pretty rough on it. I left it out on my new balcony during our recent cold snap. The Hydrangea got snowed on, frosted on, and rained on. The soil was once again soaked.

So tonight I did what I should have done the first time I almost drowned it. I put it in a new pot with fresh, dryer soil. And you can see the results above.

I added some extra garden gnomes in the hope they can help bring it back to full health. Now I'll just give it some sun, keep it warm, and water it occasionally. Eventually it may leave the plant ICU if it's lucky.

It's probably cheaper and easier to buy a new one, but that's not the point. The goal is to raise these things to health and learn while doing it. Simply buying a new one is not an option right now.

Then next step, though, may be to put eyes on my plants. Christopher Walken makes a good point.


A metaphorical gold watch

Usually when the boss turns the hose on you, it's a bad thing. Not so if you're an airline pilot.

We were just about to pull away from the gate in Reno today on Alaska Airlines flight 503, when the first officer interrupted the safety briefing to make an announcement.

He told us the fire trucks would be meeting us on the taxi way. Today was the Captain's last day with the airline. He was retiring after years of service to Alaska. As a tribute to him, the Reno airport sent out the fire trucks to give the plane a shower on the way out to runway. It was a surprise for the Captain, and the passengers applauded.

It's the first time I've been on a plane that received this traditional salute. It's sometimes used for retiring staff, the final flight of a particular airplane, the first flight of a new airplane, or other occasions that call for celebration.

As we pulled away for the gate and made our way to the ceremonial shower, I looked out the window saw ground staff, airport personnel, and employees from other airlines standing along taxiway and waving good bye to the Captain as he drove our plane to runway.

The shower was gentle. There was none of the high pressure noise you get with de-icing. We continued out to the runway, and plane made a steep climb as we took off into the rough mountain air of Reno. We reached Seattle early, and the Captain brought our plane, one of the company's newest (N546AS), into one of the softest landings I've felt in ages. Again, the passengers applauded.

Good luck, Captain. Enjoy your retirement.


Grand Sierra in Reno

I'm in Reno for a few days, and, well, it's not Vegas.

My first real experience with a casino town was going to Comdex in Vegas in 1998. I've been to Vegas more than 20 times, mostly on business. And Vegas has ruined me for other casino towns like Reno.

I'm staying at the Grand Sierra Resort (formerly the Reno Hilton) and the remodeled rooms are fantastic. The desk have a huge surface, there are leather chairs, modern lighting, and a large LCD TV on the wall. The bathroom has beautiful and stylish fixtures. The bath towels are as tall as me and they're even soft.

Sure, the pillows are terrible. And reception on the TV is pretty poor. The sink splashes, and the power connection for the desk is on the floor. But I can't complain too much.

Afterall, I'm only paying about $40/night.

That's right. This room is dirt cheap, but is nicer than rooms I've had in other cities that cost 4 times as much.

But the hotel itself (despite the ongoing remodel) is old. It near the airport and isolated from the hip, young casinos like the Peppermill and the Atlantis. You can see them in the distance, but they're not really walkable. So you either rent a car, take a cab, or drive your own car to escape the Grand Sierra.

Then again, the rooms are $40/night.

The casino downstairs isn't particularly compelling. They have all the standard games, but they have a lot of empty space. They just don't have enough tables and machines to fill the floor. The crowds are also pretty thin. There is very little action going on the casino.

It actually kind of sad. There's now vibe coming from the floor. It's just blah. Of course that's much better than that heaping pile of depressing that is the Tropicana in Vegas, but it sad nonetheless. And unlike the Vegas strip, you can't just walk to another place.

Did I mention that the rooms are dirt cheap?

I did play some in the casino. I dropped $100 on Black Jack in about a half hour, and anther $20 on the slot machines in the 25 minutes. It's what I budgeted when I knew I was coming here, so it's not a big deal.

The past few years, it seems the only place I can win at the tables in the MGM Grand in Vegas. It must be good luck for me. I get clobbered whenever I play somewhere else.

So while my hotel in Reno isn't particularly exciting, if I ever want to go somewhere and just lock my self in a hotel room for a week, Reno will be at the top of my destination list.


Dare to be Stupid

This is one of my favorite Weird Al songs. I think I once read that one of the members of Devo considers this his favorite Devo song.

It's silly, stupid, yet still has some deeper social social critique buried in it. Probably.

And this explains why sometimes I turn to people and say, "Stick your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan.


An Obituary

Noted political activist Elmo Regano passed away this morning after a surprise hospitalization for hyperhydration.

Regano first came to national attention for his work organizing the Dracaena Community, and was instrumental in bringing to light the ground cover up following the Bamboo Stalkings in 1992.

He raised awareness of depression in the Willow community, and successfully lobbied for legislation to remove Aphids from the Endangered Species List in the fertile days of change in 1996.

Regano is survived by Rosemary, his wife of 32 years, and children Basil and Verbana.

The Plants Rights Activist Community will miss his sage wisdom.

And that's no chive talk.