Mon, Jul. 21st, 2014, 09:27 am
Journey

The rags to riches story of Arnel Pineda revived my interest in classic rock band "Journey". It's rare for a band to get a second or even third comeback like they did.

Steve Miller opened and like many other bands of that era, Steve's voice has degraded through the years of singing. He too employs a backup singer to help cover up his vocal shortcomings. Curiously, this backup singer stole the show with his dancing antics.

Journey put on a well-produced show just as you might expect. Their songs are quite taxing to sing and Arnel has learned from his predecessors. Every couple of songs, he takes a break and one of the other band members does a solo. The rest of the band is also very talented so this doesn't subtract from the show. I believe this is the first concert I've seen that had credits at the end. It's a nice touch to recognize all the behind the scenes work. Still, it just goes to show just how coordinated and structured a modern concert is.

Also, in a rare act of bravery, I jumped in to stop a couple's fight in front of me. He was getting a bit too physical with her and some buried chivalry induced me to intervene. All of this in the middle of an 80's love ballad. Go figure.

Wed, Jul. 9th, 2014, 08:44 am
DC Miscellany

Some more personal thoughts about my trip to Washington D.C.

I thought Coloradans were fit and active but the residents in D.C. earn their ranking as fittest city. Even on humid summer days I saw many sweat-soaked joggers around the national mall.

Carpet on the trains is disgustingly dirty. How did such a design ever get approved? Turns out they're finally correcting this mistake now.

Otherwise the train system is quite good. Their cashless system uses a NFC plastic card. This is miles better than the magnetic strip, flimsy, paper cards they use in New York City and Boston.

Seems like the term "Gift Shop" must be regulated somehow because every museum instead has a "Book store" (which is full of souvenir gifts).

I also noticed that fair number of these "book stores" include a section for Presidential pets although no such exhibit exists. No doubt it's a sly way to sell plush toys to kids. I admit defeat here when I found a plush beagle (LBJ owned several).

There are no sprinklers in the lawn at the national mall. It's wet enough there to not need them I suppose. Humidity sometimes has benefits. One more of these is fireflies.

"The Burger Joint" is a rapidly expanding new chain in the area. It's not cheap but it ranks as one of the best burgers I can remember.

Some of the major museums stay open extra hours during the peak tourist season. Very accommodating.

T-Mobile has lousy reception in the area. My phone battery couldn't last a single day because it was constantly searching for a signal.

Out in the suburbs, there are a lot of wooded areas / forests complete with deer and other wildlife.

Large crowds of tourists and endless federal buildings means there is security all over the place. I may have seen more flashing lights than fireworks. Perhaps because of the volume of people, the security checks are rarely deep. Bags are the biggest concern and even then they just take a cursory glance.

I'm not the type of tourist that needs to take photos of everything I see. Still, I took some selfies for my own personal memories.

Mon, Jul. 7th, 2014, 11:01 am
A Capitol Fourth

Washington D.C. is busy during the Independence Day holiday but they are mostly well prepared to handle the crowds. A summary of places I went to with some thoughts sprinkled in:

US Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima) - Much larger than I imagined. The flag is a real flag and not metal like the rest of the sculpture.
US Capitol building - Grand! My tour guide was from Colorado so he gave me a lot of tips and extra trivia.
Library of Congress - The exhibit on history through maps was neat.
Supreme Court - Not very busy. Ate lunch at the cafeteria here.
Union Station - Disappointing. Was expecting something like Grand Central Station.
Postal Museum - Much better than expected. Recommended.
Smithsonian American History Museum - Excellent all-around. Must see.
Washington Monument - Did not go to the top.
World War 2 Memorial - Honor war heroes by soaking your feet in the pool (guilty).
Lincoln Memorial - Very impressive but the loud crowds take away from the majesty.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing - Much better than the mint tour.
Jefferson Memorial - Fewer crowds and also amazing. How do they keep birds out of there I wonder?
FDR and MLK memorials - I only passed through these and didn't stay long.
White House - My tour request was rejected but I still stopped by. You can't get very close.
National Archives - The longest wait was here and it was only about 30 minutes. Amazing to see the actual Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights.
Smithsonian Art Museum - I just spent about an hour here before it closed that day. There's only so many paintings of old European men that I need to see.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - Full of kids. Some pretty good exhibits.
Ben's Chili Bowl - D.C. iconic eatery. Pretty good chili dog.
Mt. Vernon - Re-enactors, brass band, fireworks, naturalization ceremony, and cake! They go all out for the Fourth of July. Also, dogs are allowed!
Smithsonian Sculpture Garden - A nice place for a break.
Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle) - If you only have a short time, you can get the quick tour here.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Why celebrate China and Kenya on our Independence day?
Smithsonian Natural History Museum - packed with kids running wild. I only went because I had some spare time before the fireworks.
Fireworks at the US Capitol - If you don't arrive early, it's hard to get a good view. Still, I saw Kermit and Piggy and Fozzy in the PBS live special filmed there. I also sorta saw Frankie Valli and a some other artists I'm too old to recognize. Fireworks themselves are excellent but only about 15 minutes long. You can hear the boom as it echoes from the capitol building behind.
Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center - Bigger and better than the one on the mall. The space shuttle Discovery is very well presented. Plenty of other historic aircraft here too.


Missed:
Spy Museum
Building Museum
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Holocaust museum

Sun, Jul. 6th, 2014, 08:55 pm
A Tale of Zoo Cities (Part 2)

My plans to visit the National Zoo fell through. Hurricane Arthur made for particularly muggy weather in the D.C. area so I opted to spend my days inside air conditioned museums instead. Anyway, the National Zoo doesn't have penguins which is quite surprising. While the Denver zoo may rank low, it wins by default here.

Sun, Jun. 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
A Tale of Zoo Cities (Part 1)

This year, my company held their sometimes annual summer party at the Denver Zoo. Since I hadn't been to this local zoo in about 20 years, I attended despite my experience at the previous summer party.

The Denver Zoo isn't world class by any means. In fact, it's fairly mediocre based on my limited knowledge of other zoos. Still, they have some penguins and giraffes which are my favorite animals. Too bad those the exhibits themselves are quite mundane.

I didn't leave completely disappointed however. I rode the carousel out of a sense of nostalgia for an era I never lived in. During the ride, I found that every carousel may actually be a time machine to the past. Go for a ride on your next opportunity.

Also, I learned much about the "bongo". Not the preferred drum for 60's hipsters but the large antelope species. A baby bongo was born just two weeks ago and so I watched the new family for a good while. At the gift shop, I was looking for a little souvenir to remember this but there were none. In fact the staff were clueless to what a bongo was or even that the baby was just born. What lousy marketing.

After the lackluster time, I felt that I should now see what a top grade zoo could offer. My trip to Washing D.C. soon provides this great chance and while it wasn't in my itinerary before, it is now. Expect another review then.

Wed, Jun. 18th, 2014, 02:12 pm
Story time

Just yesterday I managed to "finish" Final Fantasy 14 A Realm Reborn. That is, I beat the last boss and watched the ending and credits. To keep players subscribed, there are many, many hours worth of "end game" content but I really have no interest.

Even playing the main scenario, it was tough to stay engaged. The story is nonsense and I skipped most of it. At first I felt guilty for this but I just couldn't force myself to read all that text. Imagine reading a book and every other page, you are required to stop and complete some chore before proceeding. How long would you read that book?

I enjoy reading and I enjoy video games but games with story are often a poor mix. There are a few exceptions to this rule: Yakuza 2, Earthbound, FF Tactics.

Instead, games should use the strengths of the medium to tell the story. Visuals and music; not countless dialog boxes of text. Create an interesting world with neat characters and that will speak for itself. A game should show you the story and not tell it to you.

With that in mind, I show you my ending here:

ffxiv_06172014_205528

Mon, Jun. 16th, 2014, 07:27 pm
Repeat Guest Bird

This gimpy bird is back again this year. I'm not sure how he migrates from year to year given that he can barely even fly.

IMG_1752

Mon, Jun. 16th, 2014, 08:13 am
Greetings from the year 2014

I like to think that someday, eons from now, future historians will look back at my blog to learn about my life. One of them may even wonder why there was such a gap in the log here. Worry not my distant fan, for all is well. It is simply that life has been uneventful so as not to require any reflection.

Work remains steady and busy. During my personal time, I whittle it away with various forms of pop culture and electronic entertainment. The specifics aren't so important are they?

I plan to spend more time in the great outdoors in the coming weekends. Lately weekends are reserved for home maintenance tasks. Some pictures of those improvements to follow.

Wed, May. 21st, 2014, 12:43 pm
Typing Skillz

Back in the day, I used to be a pretty good typist. I was a unix admin and spent a lot of time in IRC. Plus I wrote all my web pages manually in notepad. These days I feel I'm getting slower and less accurate at typing. Thanks to auto-correct, I don't even bother correcting mistakes many times. I just let google figure it out and continue on.

One one hand, I feel I should practice and return to form. Given how much time I spend at a keyboard, typing fast and accurately is a valuable skill. Still, I see a future where a keyboard is less common interface. With my smart phone as an example, I often use the dictation feature that's built into android. The entire concept of a keyboard on a smart phone is like a square peg in a round hole to me.

Cursive writing has fallen out of the classroom already. Do they even teach typing in school anymore?

Mon, May. 19th, 2014, 02:54 pm
Spring fever

Sorry for the drought of any updates. I could say that it's been an uneventful month but I suppose it's more accurate to say it's just been uninteresting. Work is busy as I drive significant effort to sunset some legacy systems. After work, I watch videos and play games. Hardly blog-worthy material I'll admit.

Summer is nigh so weekends are more and more chances to escape to the outdoors again. Also filling my schedule with nice weather is home improvement. As always this time of year, the yard is springing back to life and in need of maintenance. Better to spend time on it now before it gets too hot later.

I should also plan to have the house painted this year. Fading has taken a toll and starting to show wear. Deciding on colors is tough for me. A change from the brown / tan scheme would be nice. Still deciding on which colors exactly.

Summer vacation is planned however. I know I'm going to Washington D.C. to visit a lot of free museums and hang out with my pal Johno64. Good times ahead!

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