So, I was in Singapore last week. On the way back from India, I stopped in the city/country/island for four nights. It’s one of the options for a layover when I fly east-to-west to Bangalore, so instead of spending an hour there, I figured out how to book a gap between flights, and Americans don’t need a visa for tourism. Airfare cost the same either way, so I booked a hotel on my dime (Amex’s, actually – more on that later) and made a quick vacation of it.

The flight from Bangalore took about five hours, leaving just before noon on a Saturday. India security was the usual, had to take every single thing out of my bag and was asked “what is this” about each and every cord and charger and plug. I forgot I had a Leatherman in my laptop bag, and even though it was a TSA-compliant one with no blades, I may as well have been carrying an M-249 and four hundred rounds of belt-fed ammunition. So there went sixty bucks.

Flight wasn’t bad. The only notable thing was I was watching Interstellar for the 167th time and I was at the giant scene at the end of Act 2 where the space station is crashing into the atmosphere and they have to emergency dock with it and push it back up to orbit, and I wasn’t paying attention to our descent into Singapore at all, and their ship collided with the station exactly when our wheels hit the tarmac, which was a bit freaky.

In Singapore, customs was 100% automated. I did not talk to a single human. I applied for the entry card online two days before, promised that I didn’t have a fever and knew drug use was punishable by death, and when I got there, I scanned my passport, scanned my thumb, looked at the camera, done. Bags were there fast, money exchange took five seconds, taxi was quick, and there I was.

This hotel experience was absolutely hilarious. This was at the Conrad Centennial, which is a towering five-start hotel in the marina bay. I had a trifecta: booked on Amex in one of their “curio collection” featured properties, paid with an Amex platinum, have gold status at Hilton, and used points for the whole thing. When they found my name on the bag, before I even got to the front desk, the hotel manager was there to welcome me. Amex already gave me a $200 credit for the curio thing, but Hilton gave me a $100/day room credit, plus I had free breakfast, and access to an executive lounge with free food. The main issue at the front desk was they couldn’t figure out the conflicting amenities, and it appeared I had six free breakfasts per day.

The room was absolutely insane. They upgraded me to a giant suite with a dining area, couches along the full-length bay windows overlooking the marina, a bathroom bigger than my apartment in college, the whole nine yards. I immediately ordered a pomme frites and ate steak until I collapsed.

* * *

Singapore looks like a futuristic Star Wars city, like Bespin: towering hotels and offices, tons of retail, food everywhere, perfectly manicured parks, a perfect transit system. On the first morning, after loading up on breakfast, I went for a walk to get the lay of the land, and the Marina area felt very weird. It looked incredible, but felt very sparse and desolate when you’re in it. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in some big Midwestern cities like in the inner loop of Chicago or the center of Indianapolis. Nice postcard, but you walk around after 5:00 and there are big chunks of areas with a lot of nothing, and that big mall that you thought was a block away is like a mile and a half in the distance. So I should have made a plan and didn’t.

That walk: big mistake. 88 degrees, humidity was 88%. I could barely propel myself; it felt like I was walking in 2x gravity. I found one of those bikes you unlock with an app, and five minutes later, got it rolling. Biking was not bad, although it was a heavy junk bike with only one speed and a seat that was slightly too short. There’s a trail along the river that has lots of shade and excellent views. Rode about five miles, then went to this mall across the street to get a drink. There was a 7-Eleven in the mall and I got a Coke Zero from an old woman who was yammering away and I didn’t understand a word she was saying. She obviously knew I was a tourist, because she paid me back my change in like 47 coins.

It felt eerily quiet, nobody out. Maybe it’s because it was Sunday morning, or maybe I was in some weird commercial district where nobody lives, like when you visit “Chicago” and your job dumps you in a Marriott in Schaumberg and the nearest anything is a Shoney’s two miles away you can’t actually walk to.

* * *

It was too bad I’m completely off this mall shit, because I quickly found out the entire country is basically a gigantic mall. There were four supermalls within a block of my hotel, and probably at least a dozen of them within a kilometer. Seriously, the place next to the mall I first went to is about the size of Mall of America, and the other three were bigger than the biggest mall in California. Singaporeans love their air conditioning, and all of these things are connected to each other through catwalks and tunnels. You can spend your entire life indoors like it’s an old Asimov novel.

I went to the biggest mall for lunch, because everyone would not shut up about these Hawker stalls of food. I walked into the food area and just about had an aneurysm, First of all, the mall was probably 20% more crowded than the most hectic mall I’d ever been to in the midwest during Peak Mall on like a Christmas Eve. There were wall to wall people in this massive three-story structure that’s actually just the first three floors of five towers, each 45 stories tall with all office space and a convention center in them. I looked it up and the mall has 186 restaurants. I don’t think I saw a single vacant store. It was absolutely overwhelming, just wall to wall people speaking Chinese or Malay, eating chicken feet and fish with heads on them and whatever else. I was so far out of my comfort zone, I took one look and thought, “I need to find a fucking Pizza Hut.” 

Wandered that mall and it was just truly bizarre and amazing. It was full of teenagers cosplaying in Magna or Anime stuff, wearing boots and uniforms and face paint and everything else. There were several arenas, open spaces with domed ceilings. One had a full-on flea market, old ladies buying bolts of cloth and household goods. Another had an e-sports competition, someone rattling on like a Chinese auctioneer, their play-by-play of a PUBG match echoing through this giant auditorium. I was pushing my way through crowds, and… there was a Toys R Us.  Not a knockoff, not a reboot, but an actual honest-to-fuck TRU that looks like it’s from 2004 or so. 

I stumbled into a McDonald’s, famished, and got a fries, a drink, and two of the bizarro burgers only available in SG. One was the Samurai Beef, which was basically a quarter-pounder but drenched in teriyaki sauce. The other was the Ninja chicken, which was a decent fried chicken patty, but covered in nanban sauce, with white cabbage coleslaw, cucumbers, and on a black charcoal bun. Fries are fries, and every MCD gets those the same. The beef burger was disgusting, too much sauce on it. The chicken sandwich would have been decent with 80% of the sauce removed. They have a cup lid that has a weird plastic spout that you can drink from without a straw which is genius and saves a lot of plastic, but would be considered woke communism in the US and would get someone killed.

Back at the hotel, I booked a massage at the spa. It was pretty decent, nothing too weird about it, except the woman was slapping me a bunch and that was different. The spa was on the same level as the pool, and there was also a wedding going on, with lots of people dressed up in super-high-end dress clothes.

I went to the executive lounge on the top floor with my laptop, thinking I’d get some work done, but it was too crowded, and the food was eh. I drank a bunch of Coke Zero, but it was too busy to write, and I needed to get my dinner plans in order.

* * *

Dinner Sunday night – got a reservation at this place at the Four Seasons, which is about three clicks west of my hotel. Took a taxi there and the cabbies are all insane in Singapore. Slam the gas, slam the brakes, slam the gas, slam the brakes, never stay in the same lane for more than 500 milliseconds, etc.

The place was called One Ninety restaurant. It’s normally a modern Asian brasserie, but an Argentinian place called Brasero Atlántico was doing a three-month takeover. Got there 30m early and I went walking around. There was a very weird liminal space – a long series of hallways connecting between the hotel and another property, and I think it was like a temporary art gallery. I sat down in a chair and messed around on my phone for 15 minutes, and absolutely nobody walked by. It was like thousands of square feet of empty space in the busiest city within a thousand miles, and there was just absolutely nothing there. So bizarre.

At the restaurant and there’s this Argentinian guy chatting with the waitress and he says hi and shakes my hand, and I’m like, “OK, whatever.” I sit down and two googles later I realize the guy is one of the top ten bartenders in the world, and this popup is a clone of one of the top five restaurants in the world. I don’t drink, but felt I had to get a drink. I got this thing that was absinthe, mandarin napoleon liqueur, and wheat beer. I then ordered a t-bone steak and it was like half a cow, just a ridiculous amount of meat. I also had fries, salad, empanadas, and too much bread. I barely made it back to the hotel and crashed out.

* * *

Monday, I woke up and had no idea where I was. After too much breakfast, I went for a long walk, then got on the MRT train to head for Chinatown. The Singapore train system makes the Disney monorail look like the bombed-out New York subway in the 70s. I was able to pay with my watch without getting a card or account or app or anything. Ridiculously clean, everyone super polite and behaved, and eating and drinking is strictly prohibited. You could perform surgery on the floor of the subway station there. It was amazing, I did not see a single cop during my stay, but I’m sure if anything went down, a hundred of them would show up. I think they are hiding in Disneyland tunnels backstage.

Chinatown – another giant mall, and this one had large mazes of semi-outdoor market stalls on each side. I ducked into one and it was sensory overload, vendors selling shirts and food and fruits and watches and everything else, and crowds of people walking the narrow alleys. Lots of temples in the area too, Hindu and Buddhist, people lighting incense and bowing. It was such an extreme juxtaposition, seeing these fifty-story chrome and glass towers filled with banks running tax havens, next to temples that looked a thousand years old, next to Vegas-style themed shopping centers, next to Asian markets.

I ended up at a Korean beef noodle place which was in a crowded mall but had a Michelin star. Got a stir fry and a bottle of soju, then remembered that drinking soju is like 3x the alcohol of beer and basically tastes like a 50/50 mix of Grape Nehi and lighter fluid. I had good stir fry but that soju got on top of me fast, and I wandered around the mall drunk, wondering what the hell was going on, because everything looked the same and there were strange stores, durian and snails for sale, places that could tell your fortune, reflexology and acupuncture places, and far too much anime stuff. Got back on the train, back to the other mall, and it was pouring rain, a wall of absolute monsoon deluge, like the inch-per-hour kind of torrent. I couldn’t figure out how to get across the street (there are usually tunnels or bridges, like Minnesota) so I just sprinted and got soaked.

Back at the hotel, I needed to write. I booked a room in the business center so I could get something done and stop eating crap out of the mini bar and doom-scrolling in bed. They only had once space and I ended up in a giant conference room with seven other chairs facing me. A bit weird, but it was a decent way to get some writing done. (Yes, I’m writing again.)

Monday dinner: there was this row of Japanese places I saw the other day but could not triangulate exactly where it was, so I ended up at this Bavarian restaurant. Tried ordering in German (“Entshuldigung! Wo ist die speisekart!”) and of course the waitress only spoke Malay and broken English and freaked out. I got a decent currywurst and pretzel and sat outside, because it was super-refrigerated inside and they were pumping in loud music (and not like Oktoberfest sing-a-long polka; I’m talking like Huey Lewis or some garbage.) The temp was cooling down, and it was actually nice on the patio.

After dinner, I got my new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime lens and took a stroll around the neighborhood for some night shooting. I love taking pictures at night, but never get a chance to. So that was fun, and having the new prime lens was great for shooting the buildings at night.

* * *

Tuesday: I massively overslept but was still tired, and I was going to walk to the giant gardens just south of the hotel, but after two minutes outside, I changed my mind and hopped a train, picked a color and a direction, and just wandered for maybe an hour. The train system has all these arterial lines that go from the city center to the extremities, but also has this orange line that runs in a big circle maybe five clicks out, so you can easily shift lines or avoid dumb routes where you have to go all the way downtown and then all the way back out in another line.

I eventually ended up at another mall, which is on Orchard sort of near that Four Seasons, on a big drag where there are maybe a dozen malls, all interconnected. It is a total Blade Runner city, a mix of gigantic supermalls where you can go to a Lord and Taylor or a Rolex superstore, but then between those are these Asian malls with tiny stalls filled with people selling bamboo plants or housewares or melons. I was just walking for hours in marvel, thinking, “What the fuck is all of this? How did I even get here?” 

I ended up having lunch at Shakey’s Pizza. It’s a huge touchstone in Elkhart. There was one just south of Concord Mall and a lot of kids at my school worked there. They had pizza buffet, mojo potatoes, etc. I last went to one in 2008 in LA, when there were maybe a dozen left in the US, all in California. It was pretty garbage back then, so I didn’t know how it would be in Singapore. This was in a food court with a bunch of stalls, and not like a full sit-down restaurant. Pizza was airport-grade eh. The mojos tastes the same but they were little discs of potato, not like a wedge. It was worth a laugh to go there, but not exactly revelatory.

Back at the hotel, got the board room again, and then couldn’t figure out dinner. I finally decided to go to Marina Bay Sands, which is a massive convention center/mall/hotel/casino just a bit south of my hotel. MBS is three 55-story towers with a gigantic cantilevered platform at the top, made to look like a surfboard, with the longest infinity pool in the world on it. There’s also a million-square-foot mall with canals and giant arched ceilings, a giant spherical Apple Store that sits on the water, theaters, museums, hotels, and one of the largest casinos in the world.

Getting into the casino was like getting into Area 51. I had to bring a passport, my travel visa, fill out all this paperwork – their loyalty program actually asks you how much you make and what your net worth is. The casino was giant, but I didn’t find it terribly great. I’m not much of a gambler, and wasn’t into the table games, so I tried a few slot machines. They all seemed pretty tuned down, with almost no bonus play and none of the crazy kinetics of American slots. I burned through about a hundred bucks (Singapore) and gave up.

Last meal: I went to one of the Hawker-type food courts and ordered a Chinese fried pork chop and some steamed dumplings. The place was crowded and I lucked into an empty table. The second I had my last bite in my mouth, someone swooped in and asked if they could have my spot.

* * *

On Wednesday, I had to leave at about six in the morning, so no time for breakfast or anything else. I got to the airport with plenty of time and wandered around a bit. The airport has this butterfly garden, which is pretty cool. It’s a two-story thing with a waterfall and lots of plants, and there are butterflies flying all around inside. I caught a 9:30am flight straight back to SFO, which landed 16 hours later at… 9:30am. I didn’t sleep and powered through the rest of the day, so I could black out right after dinner and then get to work at my regular time on Thursday.

* * *

I don’t think I had enough time to get a feel for any of Singapore other than the area around Marina Bay. Honestly, after about ten days out of the country, I was getting severely depressed from the food situation and just from wandering around alone, unable to speak to anyone in English, and everyone I knew online was asleep when I was awake. This always happens, and I’m never fully prepared for it. I’m always interested in seeing other countries, experiencing the differences, getting a feel for what it’s like there. But the loneliness of being there by myself gets crippling at a certain point, and I never know what to do.

I was reading the book The Art of Noticing recently, and I forget who said this, but their tip on what to do when you’re trying to take in a moment is to look up. Look around, but then look up and look around, then look up even further. I was walking on Orchard in the middle of this Vegas-like strip of mega-malls, listening to this ambient soundtrack I normally listen to when meditating, and looking up, looking at the glass towers and the wires and lights and trees. I thought about how weird it was to be out on a Tuesday afternoon in the sweltering heat, with all these people around me. And I thought about how I’d explain this to the 1992 me who had never been more than a few hundred miles from home, how I was in this strange land ten thousand miles away. And I thought about how grateful I was that I had a job and a life that allowed me to do this. And I wasn’t looking forward to the early wake-up call the next day or the long flight back. But I was thankful for the entire strange experience, and that burned that moment of standing in front of the Takashimaya Shopping Centre into my head forever.



I’m back in India. I’ve been here since last Saturday, and will be leaving tomorrow, so it’s a shorter trip than last time. This was very last-minute and I did not have much time to plan, so I didn’t do anything exciting. Just work.

The trip out was long, as usual. I went through Singapore this time, and was able to get an upgrade to premium economy, although that doesn’t get you much. I was in an aisle in the bulkhead row, which meant nobody reclining their seat in my face, but it also meant the TV was far away, and I had no place to put my bag. The flight was just shy of 16 hours. Then I had a super quick layover and caught a five-hour flight to India. I think I slept two or three hours on the Singapore leg, and maybe an hour going to India. That meant I left my house in an Uber at 7:40 AM Friday and checked into my hotel in Bangalore at just before midnight on Saturday.

I think this trip was less overwhelming than June’s visit. I knew what to expect, had a vague idea of the terrain, and my schedule was packed with nothing but work. I got this hotel that’s about 2km from work and maybe 1km from where we were having this off-site, so that was fine. I now know you can get from anywhere to anywhere in an Uber for like a dollar. And walking is fine, too.

Every day I would walk to work. Like I said, it’s maybe a mile each way, but it takes about 45 minutes, and you have to follow a convoluted route with your head on a swivel. Traffic is bad, the random motorcycles are worse, and pedestrians have no right of way. And sidewalks can be somewhat random, or simply end in an open trench.

I tried to be somewhat zen about my walks, look for things I normally don’t see, find things that give me joy. Here’s a list of what I liked:

  • There are so many different types of buildings. It’s not just a bunch of perfectly optimized 5-over-1 construction or a sea of ranch houses all built during the same housing boom. Some buildings have more than four sides, shoehorned into odd spaces. Some have very European lines, but some have arched windows or Jharokha windows or pyramidal roofs. Some houses look like they were built last year and some look a century old. It’s amazing to see them all butted against each other.
  • Part of my walk twists through some narrow alleys going behind rows of five-story buildings. There are small slits of light where you see the sky, criss-crossed with random wires and cables from power and internet. I don’t know why I like seeing that – it reminds me of parts of Berkeley or even Bloomington, where student buildings were randomly assembled next to each other.
  • Bangalore has so many trees. When I stay off the ring roads and take side streets, there are smaller streets that feel almost like they are going through a tunnel of green. Mountain ebony, Indian Elm, and cork trees line the city streets, with thick trunks jutting from the sidewalk. And there are amazing flowering trees. I’ll be walking along a main road and see an Indian laburnum with bright yellow flowers or an African tulip tree dotted with red-orange petals.
  • I love the randomness. You can walk past an all-glass aerospace building, then there’s an empty field with a cow eating grass in it, then there’s a retina surgery center, then there’s a shop rebuilding motorcycle engines in the street. It makes it hard to just like go to the suburb with all the grocery stores or fast food places. Everything is everywhere.
  • People draw chalk mandalas on the sidewalks in front of their house. I know nothing about the ritual or significance, but there’s something I like about it. I like spotting them as I walk through alleys and streets.
  • There was one night I was walking home from the off-site to the hotel through the EGL tech park. This was after spending all day in the air conditioning, and it was dark out, and the air was dropping from 90 to 70 degrees rapidly, and it gave me the strangest sense memory of the summer nights back in Bloomington in 1992, of walking in the cool darkness to the fountain at midnight after a day of triple-digit temperatures. I’m thirty years and half a world away, and absolutely everything is different. But I still felt that feeling for a minute, and it was amazing.

Anyway. Done with work. Leaving India tomorrow morning and taking a quick vacation for four nights over here. More updates on that soon.



I went to Kraków, Poland a couple of weeks ago. And I don’t know why, but I absolutely have not been able to jot down any thoughts on it. Maybe it was because the trip was so quick. Maybe my plans were so haphazard. Or maybe it was such a lopsided trip, with a heavy event in the middle and a bunch of dumb stuff on either side.

OK, here are some random thoughts:

  • SFO to Frankfurt to Krakow. I left Saturday night, spend four hours in Germany, ended up in Poland on Sunday night.
  • They named the airport after the Pope. They are really Catholic there. Really, really Catholic.
  • I stayed in the old town part of Krakow, in a ridiculously nice Hilton. The old town area looked like a Universal Studios backlot of a European city. Walking around at night was roughly as safe as walking in EPCOT center in the afternoon.
  • There was a pierogi place a block from the hotel and I ended up going there three times.
  • I went to this Galleria mall to buy a shirt for a formal dinner. It was the first time I’ve been to a mall since maybe Iceland. Totally uninterested. It sort of bothered me. So, that’s over.
  • Bailey was asking me every hour if I’d gotten kielbasa yet, so I went to some restaurant that I think was just called “kielbasa” and ordered a sampler platter. They brought out a platter for an entire basketball team, probably twelve pounds of meat, plus a loaf of bread, two salads, soups, pickles, and 17 other things. That broke me, and I skipped the food tour the next day because I could not deal.
  • I also went to some fancy foodie 9-course dinner, which was okay but not that inspired.
  • Went to Auschwitz. I can’t even write about this because it was so horrific and the whole thing is so politically charged. It was an incredibly heavy experience, and everyone should go.
  • I took this absurd tour of Nowa Huta, the old communist planned community built around the Lenin steel works. A guy dressed like a 90s chav showed up in a tiny Lada Niva car and acted like a Sacha Baron Cohen character. Seeing the old steel worker town was interesting, and it’s not terribly gentrified (yet).
  • I went to the aviation museum, which is one of the biggest in Europe. They had a ridiculous number of MiGs and other Soviet combat aircraft, at least two dozen. I think they had more MiG 21s next to each other than I’d ever seen at all other museums combined.
  • My flight out of Krakow left at 6am Saturday. Spent more time in Frankfurt, then landed in SFO at like 3pm.
  • Great trip, but way too short. I didn’t hit any museums, or the palace, or the salt mines. I also didn’t spent much time out of town. I feel like I could have easily spent another week here.

Wasn’t terribly happy with my pics, but I’ll go through them eventually. (I still haven’t posted pictures from Denver, Stockholm, or Iceland, so this may take a bit.)


Catsup, ketchup, catch-up

I felt a need to write a catch-up on all the various things that went on in the last few months, but immediately went on a tangent about whether or not the tomato-based condiment is named catsup or ketchup. I think it’s with a k, and maybe it used to be mostly with a c in the US, until Heinz changed the name of theirs to the k spelling a century and a half ago. I guess I can remember this with the mnemonic that it’s k and my last name is k.

* * *

OK, so catch-up.

I feel like I’ve lost the first seven months of this year on stupid stuff. I wrote about the two big trips — Iceland and India — although I haven’t posted photos from either. Maybe I’ll get that done at some point, although I’m fairly convinced nobody looks at Flickr. Maybe I’ll make a book, although Blurb takes forever and just raised their prices. Charging a dollar a page for a pocket book is highway robbery. Anyway. Another big trip coming up, and I’ll write more about that later.

Working in San Francisco has been good. The bike thing didn’t really happen. I drive or Uber to the train station, and take the BART one stop, under the water and straight to the financial district. The whole thing is a relatively painless 30 minutes door to door. They feed us, so I seldom leave the building and don’t really have an idea of what’s around. If there’s not food that day, I usually end up at Super Duper, which is a block away. A couple of times I’ve walked a loop down to the ferry terminal and back, which is a decent stroll. I should get out and explore the area more, maybe take some pictures. I should do a lot of things, though.

* * *

When S worked for Smucker, she would sometimes have to travel out to their home office in Orrville, Ohio. Their HQ has a store in it, where you can get t-shirts and socks and other swag, plus the company’s products. And a weird easter egg is that the store sells Smucker’s ketchup, which isn’t available in retail stores. She brought back a jar a few times, and it’s actually really good ketchup. It has a slightly sweeter taste, and comes in a fancy wide-mouth glass jar, probably the same one they use for jelly.

They also have a thing where they will print your picture on the label of a jelly jar. It won’t let you change the slogan below it to a custom string, except to a stock set of choices like “happy birthday” or whatever. Because presentations were the bane of her existence at that job, I wanted to get a jar with the PowerPoint logo on it, and the slogan “PowerPoint is my jam!” I guess I could DIY it, but she left that job a year ago, so never mind.

* * *

In addition to that Flickr rant above, I have no idea what I’m doing with photography. I shot a bunch of film in Iceland, and was unhappy with the results. I have little motivation to go out and take more pictures of the same three things I see on a weekly basis. I bought that Sony a6400 for the India trip, and took maybe a hundred photos there, none good. I really struggled with getting good shots and exposure, and there’s something insanely unsatisfying about using a mirrorless camera. Anyway, the more pictures I take, the worse I feel I’m doing. It’s a struggle, and it’s not bringing me much joy.

Oh, and that drone I bought at the end of 2020 and haven’t touched in forever – turns out it will be illegal to fly next month, because it does not comply with the new Remote ID rules. There are rumors of a firmware update, but they are just rumors. And even if it is fixed, there is still the Karen situation that makes it hard to fly these days.

* * *

For some reason, India was obsessed with ketchup. Maybe obsessed isn’t the right word, but I went to Pizza Hut, got a personal pan pizza, and they gave me a bottle of ketchup with it. I went to a Taco Bell, got a quesadilla and nachos, and was given a bottle of ketchup. I don’t know if it’s a thing to slather ketchup on a taco in India, or just saw a big overweight white American ordering fast food and assumed I needed a quart of ketchup.

I don’t know what brand of Ketchup McDonald’s India used; it was MCD-labeled. I know in the US, they changed from Heinz to their own brand in 2013 when Heinz was acquired by a former Burger King CEO. Burger King India used a ketchup by Veeba. Taco Bell used Del Monte ketchup. Pizza Hut used a brand called “Dr. Oetker Funfoods.” I did not use the ketchup at Pizza Hut, but the food made me horrifically sick. The crust and sauce of the personal pan pizza tasted about right. The pepperoni was way off. It could have been the lack of beef; it could have been spiced differently. Anyway, I’m off Pizza Hut for a while now.

McDonald’s tasted largely identical in India, aside from the lack of beef. Chicken McNuggets were identical, but there is no sweet and sour sauce, which is my go-to. I was forced to resort to barbecue. (Or is that barbeque?) I had a veggie burger once, and it’s like the old-school bean-based veggie burger, not Incredible or whatever fake meat. Oh, and they opened at 11:00, so breakfast didn’t start until then.

Taco Bell was weird. It was closer to Chipotle in trying to be more of a sit-down restaurant. No beef, again. I was also trying to actively avoid any lettuce, so no bean tacos. I ordered nachos, and the chips were the thicker, seasoned kind, and it was served with a mix of tomatoes and uncooked onions on the top, the cheese already applied. Completely unacceptable. (I got it no vegetables the second time, but the cheese was already pre-applied, which I hate. Too much cheese on the top chips, none on the bottom.) The quesadilla was okay, but nobody could pronounce it. They say the “dill” part like the name of the herb, Napoleon Dynamite-style. The cashier tried to correct me, and I told her I worked at a Taco Bell before her father was born. Despite my white-bread Indiana upbringing, I know how to say quesadilla.

I only went to Burger King once in the morning with an uneasy stomach in search of a hash brown, a plain white potato and grease rectangle of salvation. The hash brown was actually sort of spicy, like an aloo chop. It wasn’t bad, but in the context of needing grease and blandness to absorb the rumbling of my stomach, it was slightly offputting.

I did not go to KFC. I saw a Buffalo Wild Wings, which threw me for a loop college nostalgia-wise. Didn’t go in. Not a big fan of finger food anymore.

* * *

I am back writing. Or maybe that’s a question. I am back writing? This is probably the topic of a bigger post, or a series of them. One of my tasks is to keep typing here. The other is to pull some of the other books out of retirement, maybe freshened up. Two are back, as I’ve previously mentioned. I have a few other ideas. We’ll see.

I have no idea how to sell books now. I’ll put them on KDP, but I have no idea how to tell people, and no clue on how to “brand” myself, especially because I do not want to write the kind of stuff I was writing, and I hate the persona I was trying to sell a few years ago. (No advice, please.)

There’s also a little social media rant I could go off on here, or not. I radically cut down my social media time after Iceland, and disconnected or deleted everything entirely in like May, went cold turkey for weeks. I was down to just Reddit, and then all of Reddit went dark. I’m partly back now, although Twitter is done done and deleted. I got on Threads for two seconds, and there’s not enough Xanax in the world for me to even try. I hate to be one of those people who acts like they are above social media because they have such rich social lives in real life. I’ve been online for 34 years this month, and I’m not going to pretend. But I’ve had some serious problems online in the last six months, and have no idea how to really reconcile that. Blogging might be what I need. Nobody reads this, so it’s perfect.

* * *

I can’t think of any ketchup-related anecdotes about Iceland. I think most of the times I got french fries, they came with some esoteric mayo-based sauce, like an aioli. Oh, the one time I had a hot dog (which you have to do there at Bæjarins Beztu), it had ketchup, but it was a very sweet ketchup made with apples. The standard one-with-everything also has a remoulade and a very sweet mustard called pylsusinnep on it. The hot dogs are a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef. Very good stuff.

I had mixed feelings about Iceland when I was there, but it’s weird – now that I have some distance on it, the trip was truly profound to me, and exactly what I needed at that moment. Pardon me for being such an asshole with all these travel stories, but this was more than travel. Iceland was like an alternate universe for me, like a bizarro world. If you’re curious, go hunt down some of the work of Roni Horn, especially Island Zombie. That book is such a perfect description of how the desolation and solitude and viciousness of the island’s climate and terrain are a meditation on presence. I love that book and it makes me want to go back. And there’s no “but” in that, like “I want to go back but take two weeks” or “rent a camper” or “go when the weather is better.” Honestly, I want to go when the weather is worse.

I have such a clear memory, like one of those memories that I will have for the rest of my lifetime, of sitting at the top of Bjarnarfoss, after spending an hour climbing up there and then falling. It was way too cold and I was dressed wrong, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I broke my leg or not. And I was trying to calm myself down, and figure out how to get back down on one leg, and I sat in the mud at the top of this mountain ridge, looking out over all of Snæfellsjökull and the ocean, and being the only person there for miles and miles in every direction, completely alone, everything silent except for the melting snow and ice of this waterfall. Everything in my mind shifted, and I wish I had a word better than “profound” to describe this, but it was almost overwhelming how serene and deep the experience was. I have to go back. I will.

But that’s not the trip this month. Stay tuned on that.



Just got back from two weeks in India. This was a last-minute work trip to Bangalore, so not really a tourism junket or an eat-pray-love thing. I didn’t bring any camera gear except a Sony a6400 and a single 16-50 lens, and only got out once to snap a few pics. It was otherwise a lot of meetings for work, and as always, I don’t get into work here.

This was my longest trip ever, and my first time in Asia. It involved three new countries (India, Qatar, and the UAE) and at 12.5 hours behind my home time zone, was the biggest jetlag hit ever. And there’s no easy way to shift a half-day. Sometimes I try shifting an hour a day before a trip, but that’s impossible here. Don’t sleep the first day, try to get some exercise in sunlight, and hit the melatonin hard. I left on a Monday night, didn’t sleep on the plane, and went straight to work on Wednesday after landing. Not a great idea. It took me a couple of days to get back to normal.

India was way out of my comfort zone. What really got me was the sheer size of the place. By population, Bangalore is bigger than all of New York City. India has four cities bigger than New York. The second-biggest city in the US is Los Angeles. India has eight cities bigger than LA. Chicago is in third place in the US; India’s ten biggest cities are all bigger. Yet there is little vertical development in Bangalore. Walking around reminded me of being in parts of Queens, where most everything is three stories and crammed together.

The noise and the traffic is what got me. I’m not used to it anymore, and it reminded me of when I’d go back to New York in the early 10s and hear the constant car horns and see the waves and waves of people on the sidewalks and wonder how I ever got used to it back in the 00s when I lived there. I mostly walked and caught an Uber or two a day, and it absolutely amazed me how frenetic traffic was there. Sometimes, you couldn’t even tell what side of the road they really drove in, because there would be two, three, five lanes of traffic crammed on a road, with motorcycles crammed in between. That said, every driver was expert-level and I didn’t see a single accident the whole time I was there.

The weather was pretty mild, and I didn’t catch much rain. There were a few epic thunderstorms, and when I went outside, the atmosphere reminded me of Bloomington nights back in 1992. It was also a neat callback to IU to see a Buffalo Wild Wings in Indirianagar. I didn’t go in, although I wondered if the conversion rate would mean ten-cent wings again.

Food was slightly problematic. I was trying to be extra careful to not get sick, so I was paranoid about drinks with ice and tap water and lettuce and really spicy food. I ate at a lot of American fast food places, and it was weird to go to a McDonald’s with no hamburgers and a half-dozen different veggie burgers. It was a Pizza Hut that eventually did me in, so that was unavoidable, but fortunately not too horrible.

I spent the first half of the trip in a particularly bad hotel, then got moved after a week to a Hilton where they were having our conference. This was in the EGL business park, which was opened in 2004. I took a long walk through the area one day, and it was amazing how it looked almost identical to any other IT park opened after the bubble. It was the same exact three-story Silicon Valley buildings, with brushed aluminum trim and mirrored green or blue glass. It reminded me almost exactly of taking a stroll around Palo Alto or Naperville or the Denver Tech Center. The Hilton was also a Hilton. It was funny to be working on my school paper one day after work, remembering last year in Denver in an almost identical hotel room in an almost identical tech park, also working on an almost-identical paper for b-school. Heavy deja vu there.

I did spend the weekend walking around various touristy places, going to Bangalore Palace and then the Museum of Art and Photography, then realizing there was no way to catch an Uber in under a day and walking five miles home. There were so many bizarre and surreal images from the long walk: two guys and a live goat on a moped; endless clusters of ham stores right next to places rebuilding motorycles or selling bulk vegetables. Pop-up stands popped up everywhere, random people with a sterno ring and a wok, whipping up curry to people eating it on the street with their hands. There were so many people, so much to see, and endless streets in every direction, a complete and constant cortisol dump into my fight-or-flight, telling me that I should be at 10/10 anxiety because I was in a random city 8,600 miles from home and didn’t speak the language and didn’t know where anything was, and the closest 7-Eleven was probably a few hours away by plane. The whole thing was so overwhelming and stressful and wonderful at the same time. I was so beyond lost and had no way to trust anything and just went with the flow of it and hoped for the best, and hours later I felt like my anxiety had gone away completely.

On Friday after work, I flew to Dubai and spent the night in the airport. That was a truly surreal experience. It reminded me of when a mall is open until some absurd hour for a holiday. I remember walking by a Rolex store with a line of people out the door, all patiently waiting to drop ten grand on a duty-free watch. I went to a cosmetics store and bought Sarah some skin care products she wanted that aren’t available in the US, and had no idea how much any of it cost because it was all in UAE Dirham. I took a shower in a lounge spa, ate three meals overnight, and worked on a school paper for a while. (I’ve now worked on my two degrees at WGU in seven different countries.)

Oh yeah, India was not as cashless as my Iceland experience. When I arrived at the airport in Bangalore at three in the morning, I grabbed about 25,000 rupees so I could get a cab and some breakfast/dinner/whatever. Sounds impressive, but that was like 300 bucks. I could not grok the conversion rate at all, and just gave out bills and hoped for the best. I remember eating a giant brunch at some place, paying them whatever, then getting home and realizing the whole meal was like $6.42.

The flight home was absolutely inhumane. 8300 miles, flying over Iran and Russia, then crossing the North Pole. That was an absolutely eerie experience. The WiFi cut out because there isn’t satellite coverage up there, and I spent a few hours looking through the camera at the view of the glaciers at 40,000 feet. I felt completely disconnected from the rest of the world, like an astronaut on the far side of the moon.

Anyway, I’m back. I did not get a lot of pictures, but at some point, I’ll post a few more maybe. Now I get a couple of days off before I get back to work.




OK, so my big trip I wouldn’t talk about last time: Reykjavik, Iceland. I flew out on the 15th and got back a week-ish later after an overnight in London. Iceland was… an experience. Interesting. Not the best place to go if you have seasonal affective disorder or love sunny weather, especially in April. But it was an experience.

The bulleted list:

  • This was, as always, a last-second trip with very little planning. I actually booked the trip three weeks before leaving, and then did very little aside from buying the Rick Steeves book and checking Duolingo and finding out they don’t even have a course on Icelandic. I did obsess over camera gear and bags a bit, and I started throwing a few things on a google map, but even the day before I left, I felt like I was completely unprepared.
  • So, SFO, hauled out my big suitcase, an REI backpack with all the camera gear in it, and my regular laptop bag. The camera gear consisted of my DSLR, an SLR, about five lenses, that Olympus pocket camera, and a dozen rolls of 35mm in a lead-lined bag.
  • First flight was to JFK, five and a half hours, leaving at noon. I had no desire or ability to sleep. I vaguely worked on a paper for school, but this was a flight too short for sleep or settling in, and just long enough to be annoying.
  • Spent an hour and a half on the tarmac in thunderstorms, and got worried I’d miss my flight, but looked it up, and we were taking the same 757 I was on, so no big deal. The main problem was the Delta terminal has almost no food, and it all closed about ten minutes after we landed. I got the very last burger and last fries off the grill at Shake Shack, and that was not advisable. I threw out the inedible hockey puck after eating half of it anyway, and hoped I could fill up on power bars and Sonata tablets on the way out.
  • The flight out was delayed a half hour every half hour, and instead of 23:00 we left at about 02:00. It was another five and a half hours flight time. The plane was half empty, and most people tried to sleep, but I never can. I nodded out for a half hour, then watched the sun rise over Greenland.
  • Keflavik International looks like a Star Wars rebel base built on a moon. The inside looks like a minimalist furniture maker from Germany designed a ski lodge for Ikea. I sprinted past the old people, and got through customs in two seconds. Went to the restroom, brushed my teeth and changed clothes, and when I got out, there was my suitcase.
  • Had some confusion on the car rental and had to get a new one at Avis. They told me 19 times not to let go of my car door when I opened it, because the wind would rip it off. I thought that was cute… until I got outside. It felt and looked like I was on another planet. Insane wind, and the temp wasn’t that cold, but it was just… weird. It looked like it was much colder than it was. Maybe it was something about the sky.
  • They gave me a little Mazda 2. I drove out and realized this was the first time I ever drove a car in a foreign country, except for Vancouver, and that doesn’t count, because they filmed X-Files there. I didn’t understand any of the street signs. Nothing was in English. Everything was in metric. The speed limits were insanely low. The highest speed limit in the country on the highways way out of town is 55mph. In cities, it’s like parking lot speed. There are cameras everywhere enforcing this with absurdly expensive tickets.
  • Went to a little cafe in Keflavik. I quickly realized everyone could speak English, but nothing was in English, and nobody would converse with me, a lot like Sweden last year. When they said “viltu langan blað með ýmsu skrifað á” to me at a million miles an hour and I said “what?” they would say “receipt?” but that’s about it. Anyway, got a great donut and a grilled ham and cheese in this little strip mall bakery, and realized I was about to be awake for some insane amount of time, like 36 hours.
  • I stopped off the highway before the bakery, got out to take pictures. I know I keep saying this, but it seriously looked like they terraformed Mars in some Ray Bradbury novel and I had a Mazda hatchback there.
  • I still had all this time to kill before I could get to my hotel, so I went to Kringlan mall. It looked like a Westfield mall, 180 stores, lots of wood, high ceilings, and packed on a Sunday. There wasn’t a single vacant store. Lots of tan tiles, no 00s-era all-white blanding like a Simon mall in America. It had a grocery store and a Hagkaup, which is a hypermart that is like if Ikea competed directly with Target. There were a lot of hardlines stores, which was odd. They had a Sbarro pizza. It was all incredibly confusing on no sleep.
  • The hotel was this weird no-staff thing where they email you a code. It had the tiniest bed I have ever seen in my life, like when my father-in-law bought my nephews “big boy beds” when they were four. It was seriously only about thirty inches wide. Nice Euro shower. It was in a neighborhood near a hospital and some commercial property, like past the suburbs. Close to the car dealerships. At least there was a Hagkaup a block away.
  • Abolutely no food around, so I stumbled into a Lebanese falafel place. I don’t speak Arabic or Icelandic, and the one guy working didn’t speak English, so there was lots of pointing. Awesome falafel, though.
  • Absolutely nobody takes or expects tips or gratuity in Iceland. They think it’s insulting. Everything is cashless, too. I never got any money, and used a card for everything.
  • I blacked out on the first night at like 19:00. I woke up refreshed and ready to start the day, then opened the shade and realized I’d been asleep for maybe three hours and the sun was just setting.
  • After a night of pseudo-sleep, I sat looking out the window, and realized that at least in my neighborhood, it resembled Anchorage, except remove everything American and redneck about it and replace it with culture from Denmark. The weather reminded me of Seattle in December: constantly clouds and rain, but only like 0.01mm of precipitation a day.
  • Monday: drove to Reynisfjara beach, about two and a half hours away. I found one of the problems was that there is no place to pull over on Iceland highways: two lanes, no rest areas, no parks, maybe an attraction every hundred kilometers. I saw a lot of beautiful desolation, but couldn’t really take pictures of it.
  • Reynisfjara is a black beach on the Atlantic. It was absolutely stunning but completely surreal. Black sand, black shores, black rocks, black mountains, gray waves that looked gigantic, coming straight from Antarctica across the world and hitting shore, creating this cold mist and fog everywhere. It did not look real, at all.
  • Second mall on the way back was Smáralind, a double-decker corridor mall, with a partial third floor of restaurants and a movie theater. It was the same exact layout as the old Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, if Scottsdale had been redone in the year 2300 by aliens. It also had a lot of durable goods, including an H&M home store, which I’d never seen. I asked someone about this, and of course the answer is there’s no Amazon in Iceland, and you have to go to the mall to buy cookware or a duvet. So it was basically like a mall in 1988, and you can guess how I felt about that.
  • Tuesday: went on this food tour where they bring you to five different restaruants. It was the guide, a couple from New Jersey, and a guy from Saudi Arabia. It was good to talk to people, but why did I fly 4500 miles to talk to someone about baseball stadiums we’d visited in the states? Anyway, the guide said there would be no freaky Icelandic food, and that was true until the very end. Lots of great lamb and fish stuff, a farmer’s breakfast, lobster tacos, ice cream, awesome, until…
  • Fermented shark. Hákarl. He brought this stuff out, little cubes on toothpicks in a glass jar. This was the stuff that Anthony Bourdain said was the single worst food he’d ever eaten in his life. He was correct. I had to eat it. It tasted like the worst piece of gristle you’ve ever spit out because you couldn’t chew it, soaked in cat urine for six months. Every attempt to chew it made it worse. I swallowed it mostly whole like a bad pill. I could not get the taste out of my mouth, and within a few hours, I was sweating what smelled like shark piss. Would not advise.
  • Stumbled to a KFC that night, which looked like someone looked at old videos a thousand years after the destruction of the world and decided to clone an authentic American eatery and got it entirely wrong. The chicken tasted like a Banquet TV dinner from 1989. People were putting ketchup on fried chicken. I only ate half of mine and left.
  • Wednesday: a three-hour 1:1 photo tour, which was largely in 47-degree wind and rain. Lots of shots and explanations about how almost all the big civic projects of the fifties were designed by one guy who invented Icelandic architecture.
  • Gave up and went to a Taco Bell for lunch. It tasted identical to one in the states. The Crunchwrap Supreme is available with bacon. The volcano burrito is still on the menu. I also – sorry, ugly American – went back to the mall and ate at a TGI Friday’s. Largely identical, very weird.
  • Thursday – drove south and went to Krýsuvíkurkirkja, which is this black church in the middle of nowhere that looks like something out of a bizarre horror film. Also drove to Fagradalsfjall, the big volcano that just blew like a year or two ago, but there’s nothing to see unless you hike miles, and it was like 35 and pouring rain, so nope.
  • I drove back into town and stopped to get more Coke Zero and found an actual dead mall. It was more of an atrium with stores around it, adjacent to a grocery, but it looked completely abandoned, and had pink and white tiles and plants growing randomly everywhere.
  • Went to the Lemmy bar in town. I don’t know that Lemmy’s estate actually was in on this; it’s just a metal bar downtown that has really good waffles and bands that play on the weekends.
  • Last day: drove about two and a half hours to Snæfellsjökull, a giant glacier to the northwest.
  • Stopped at Bjarnarfoss, a big waterfall. It was cold and muddy, and you have to go up a trail and then basically climb on loose rocks and mud to get to the base of the waterfall, which was a huge pain, especially with two cameras. Beautiful view up there. And then on the way down, I slipped and fell. Didn’t go too far, but bashed up my knee pretty seriously.
  • Drove to Arnarstapa, this fishing town on the water, and found this little place that looked like a roadhouse that hadn’t been painted since 1950 that just said “ICELANDIC FOOD” stenciled on the wall. Went inside and it was all wood and picnic tables. I got possibly the best stew I’d ever eaten in my life, and this rustic bread that was just insane.
  • Did a bit of off-roading on the f-roads with the Mazda to see the glacier. They were open enough for me to get up there, although I did have one place where I got stuck and had to rock the car back out.
  • Dinner: ate at Dill, a Michelin star restaurant. It was like ten courses and incredible, but that lamb stew was just about as good.
  • Three-hour flight to London. I was stuck overnight, so I went to a Hilton connected to Heathrow, and slept six hours in a normal-sized bed. Then I had a brutal eleven-hour flight back after every possible inconvenience at the airport.

The trip – like the Sweden trip, I hit a wall a few days in and wondered why the hell I did this instead of just going to a resort in Arizona or something and relaxing. The whole trip was very gray and rainy and I was alone and nobody spoke English and the food was bizarre, and that was on top of whatever base depression I already had going on before I left. But I think by the final day, it all clicked. And after dinner, I was walking downtown in the golden hour, maybe fifty degrees out, a crisp cold, and it all just hit me, how much I liked it and how I’d miss it after going back home. It was an odd realization. I could never live there, and I honestly don’t know that I’d come back. But it was a perfect end to the trip.

(I need to get the photos sorted. It’s a bit of a mess, and I have a lot of film at the lab. I’ll get it figured out at some point.)


Vegas 2023

It’s been three years, but I managed to get to Las Vegas for my birthday. It was a good trip overall, so here’s the stupid bulleted list trip report.

  • Flew in Thursday afternoon, out Monday afternoon, with the actual birthday being on Friday, so the timing was great. The trip was slightly front-loaded with activities and we spent the back half of the trip in “well, what now?” mode, but the pace was pretty decent.
  • This was a trip with a full crew. Bill shares the same birthday as me, and Marc’s often on these trips. We also had Lon, who I haven’t seen in a while, and my old roommate Andrew, who I think I last saw on one of these trips maybe ten years ago. And there was Todd, who I literally had not seen since he was on the 2002 birthday jaunt, when I stayed in the Elvis suite of the long-gone Stardust.
  • Because I’ve had to fly business select on so many last-second Southwest flights, this was a free trip, airfare-wise. The trip itself was flawless; very easy in and out. I brought no luggage, just a computer bag and a duffel.
  • No camera gear would fit in my duffel, except my Canon EOS M1, which is a bit garbage, and my iPhone took better pictures all trip.
  • We stayed at the Mirage. This may be the last time we stay at the Mirage, because it was recently purchased by Hard Rock and will probably be gutted and turned into something else soon. (Or not, given the economy.) I am not sure I’ve ever stayed there, although I’ve wandered through a lot. Rooms were decent, and the view of the strip was nice. The food and the casino were eh.
  • Went to Penn and Teller on Thursday. The show was decent. I think it was solid, but not outstanding. Some of the tricks were new, and this was one of the first shows of the year, so I think they’re still working stuff out. Great crowd, though.
  • Dinner at the Rio, a bit eh. We went to some diner and I got a thing of nachos about as big as a bus tub. The Rio is such a mixed bag and I’m a bit surprised it’s still rolling.
  • Birthday brunch at Bouchon was over the top. I had a chicken and waffles, and there were far too many pastries and breads. Amazing stuff, but I needed insulin after that one.
  • Got a Swedish massage at the Mirage spa for my birthday, and my shoulders hurt for days. But, like, in a good way.
  • For dinner we went to The Palm, which was also way over the top. Really loud in there on a Friday night. The food was great, and wagyu steak is always good.
  • I’ve always had really good luck gambling on my birthday. That streak continues, but for accounting purposes, I won’t say how well I did.
  • Had a good lunch the next day at the Grand Luxe in the Venetian. There are actually two of them, which is confusing. This was no Bouchon, but bacon was involved.
  • We went to Resorts World, which is the first time I’ve been to a brand new casino probably since the Wynn was built? Or maybe City Center, I guess. Anyway, it’s a weird looking place. It’s absolutely cavernous, and looks more like an airport than a casino. We went to some bar to get drinks and then a few minutes later, they told us football was starting and we had to pay fifty bucks each to keep sitting there, so nope.
  • Saw this show called OPM at the Cosmopolitan, which was really fun. It was themed like a futuristic starship’s variety show, and the interior was all cyberpunk/neon looking. There was an “android” hostess/MC who was funny, and then they had various acrobatic or musical things, all of which were impressive. The one I liked best was Billy and Emily England, who did a roller skating/acrobatic routine that was absolutely insane, especially in the close quarters of the very small stage.
  • Went to the Trop for a Sunday comedy show that had Mike Binder opening for Rich Hall. Binder was garbage. He started off with the “I’m old and I don’t understand pronouns” and went from there. Rich Hall was amazingly good. He played songs and did a ton of crowd work. Very quick, sharp, and it was hilarious to see him pivot a song on a dime to start singing about the concrete world trade show. I didn’t know what to expect from him since the last thing I knew him for was the Sniglets thing thirty years ago. Absolutely didn’t do that, and it was great. The Tropicana, not so much.
  • Weather was the coldest I’d ever seen. I think it was down to the mid-30s some nights, sitting in the mid/high-40s most days.
  • I walked an extreme amount every day, usually between 12 and 15 miles. That almost counterbalanced my meal schedule going completely sideways and eating like 100 Weight Watchers points per day.
  • The best part of this trip: I have not spent any time with guy friends in a long time, probably since three years ago. And the last time I was with a group this size was maybe 10? 15? years ago. I really needed this trip, and being able to just bullshit for hours with other tech geeks was absolutely awesome.

Good birthday. Good trip. I need to do this more than once a year, though.


Sunday, travel, dental, driving randomly

Now that I’ve posted here the last few Sundays, I feel like I need to post here every Sunday. That would be a good routine to get into, although I don’t always have anything to talk about, especially when I’m too busy all week and do nothing but work and try to sleep. So, here we are.

I might not update next Sunday because I’ll be in the Midwest. This is a quick trip back for a wedding. No Indiana; this is in Illinois. I’m being somewhat vague about my actual travel plans, because who knows how much they’ll shift, and I don’t want to make solid promises on anything. I haven’t flown in two years, and have no idea how this will go. I am going to bring a single camera, my main DSLR, and maybe an extra lens, but maybe not. I’m not going to mess with a backup or a film camera or whatever else. My backup is my iPhone.

That main camera – the Canon Rebel T6i – has been getting a ton of mileage on it. I mentioned hitting 8000 shots the other day. In the last 11 days, I’ve shot another 1600 pictures. If I don’t cross the 10,000 line by the time I leave this week, I definitely will when I’m gone. It’s funny that my biggest year by volume was in 2010 when I shot just under 4000 shots across all of my cameras. In the first four months of 2022, I’ve shot over 5000 shots. Gotta keep the rhythm going. (If you’re curious, the best of this stuff is slowly getting posted over at my Instagram.)

* * *

True to brand, I managed to crack a tooth right before vacation. Actually, I should have done it while on vacation, but I got a head start on it. It’s fairly minor, no pain and just a little edge next to a filling that’s chipped. I went to the dentist yesterday, and he said it needs a crown, but filed it off a bit to get me sorted in the short term. I’ll go back the day after I return and get it all tore down and set up, then spend a few weeks on protein shakes and soft foods.

I got finished with the dental appointment down in San Bruno at about 9:30 in the morning Saturday. It was raining, just a sprinkle, and a fog had socked in most of the hills in South San Francisco and Daly City. I drove around the peninsula, stopping here and there to snap a few shots with the mist in the distance, which was harder than I thought. Every time I would see a perfect scene, I’d then try to park the car somewhere, run out, and realize it didn’t look as grand, or the wind would shift and the fog was gone or the clouds moved. I need more practice with this, or a good map and some research.

Daly City is the little boxes made of ticky-tacky as made famous by the Malvina Reynolds song. (Or Pete Seeger, or the theme song from Weeds, depending on your age.) So I was driving around there, trying to capture a good line of little pastel houses with a dense fog in the background, and did only so-so with that. I also drove to Thornton State Beach. I was more excited about that one, because by the time I turned onto Skyline, I was basically driving through a gray cloud. But when I got to the beach, it was closed to the public, and I could only walk on one little trail to a roundabout and take some distance shots of the ocean from there. Lots of choppy waves and low-hanging clouds off the water, but I didn’t have the right spot or the right light to get anything too grandiose.

I did a quick lap at the Serramonte Center mall, then got home by noon. Decent field trip.

* * *

I have been making more of an effort to drive around randomly without a GPS. I did that today, too. Exited the highway near Moraga, and just drove, winding through hills and looking for places where I could shoot a photo or two. I used to do a lot of this as a kid in Indiana. When I first got a car, I would drive everywhere, going to places I never usually traversed as a kid, finding different routes and seeing new things.

I can remember many a weekend in Seattle doing the same thing, just aimlessly driving up and down the isthmus, heading parallel to I-5, avoiding traffic by taking side streets and getting lost in parts of Echo Lake or Ballard or whatever, driving in a direction I thought might be east, trying to get back to a highway or a Denny’s or something I recognized.

Back then I only had the laminated tri-fold map, Seattle’s grid/numbering system, and the mnemonic “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest.” (Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, Pine.) This is how I vaguely figured out the city, found a lot of weird record stores, and burned a lot of time. It’s a bit of a lost art now, since I only drive from A to B and follow the road Google tells me to follow. I’m trying to break myself of that on Sundays to find new places to shoot.

* * *

Not much else. I have an abbreviated work week and a lot to do, plus figure out packing. Provided this trip goes okay, I think I need to take another trip in June, but I have no idea where. Not the Midwest, not Vegas. I was thinking Seattle, but I am not sure. I’ll have to pull up Amex travel and see what’s cheap, what I’m willing to deal with. But first, I have to see if I have any travel-size toiletries that haven’t turned into solids in the last two years. (And Target was closed on Easter? That’s surprising, at least out here.)



Sundays. Not a fan. It seems like every Sunday afternoon, I have no idea what to do with my time from lunch to dinner, except I get this panic that I need to completely reinvent my life and I’ve only got two hours and seventeen minutes to do it, and then it’s back to work for another week. I generally spend this time vacillating between trying to start coding something (which is the same brain center as work, so why do that on my day off), write (but that’s done), or… I don’t know what else. Take pictures? Try to play music? I don’t know.

Sunday used to be the day I would catch up with people on the phone. My “phone book” was a sheet of printer paper folded three times and shoved in my wallet. Every semester or so, I’d start a new sheet fresh, copy the numbers that still mattered and still worked to the new page. The old page was generally falling apart at the seams, or the numbers had all changed, because everyone constantly moved. I thought it was somewhat a miracle I kept the same phone number (333-2254) from 1991-1995.

Anyway, I never do the phone catch-up thing. The more tools we have to keep in touch, the less I actually talk to people. It’s amazing that when it was ten cents a minute, I probably spent an hour a day on the phone. Now that it’s essentially free, other than family calls, I probably talk to one person every three months, if that. And my phone book is in my Mac, on my phone, “in the cloud.” It’s never updated now, because it’s forever there. I think the same core file has existed since I first got a Palm Pilot in 1999.

(Not to get all weird about it, but I never know what to do about dead people in my address book. There are maybe a half-dozen in there. I can’t delete them, but I hate when I start to type a letter in something, and someone who died years ago pops up.)

(Also the whole talking-to-people thing is one of the things I liked about having a podcast. Unfortunately there were like 163 other things that were a pain with podcasts, so that’s not something I’m revisiting any time soon.)

* * *

At least things are open on Sundays here, more or less. I remember being in Indiana and things were closed, and you couldn’t buy alcohol. For some reason, Tracks was the only record store I remember being open on Sundays, or maybe they were the only one open after five. That’s probably one of the reasons I could get people on the phone that night. Nothing to do but study, or avoid studying.

I have a very vivid memory for some reason that was in the summer of 1994. I had a car for the first time in two years, and I drove from Colonial Crest out to the mall, and the mall was closed. So I looped back to the aforementioned Tracks on Kirkwood. I only vaguely shopped at Tracks – there were better alternatives – but I had a soft spot for them because there was also a Tracks right off the Notre Dame campus. I was hipped to that place the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, and that was when I found out about import singles, more specifically ones from Pink Floyd, so I could pay ten dollars for two songs, one I already had on the album, the other being too sub-par to be on the album. But it was from England! I also got started working through the entire SST discography at Tracks, which was problematic when only making $3.35 an hour.

Anyway, the memory, I bought Brian Eno’s Ambient 4: On Land, and a sandwich at Dagwood’s. Corned beef, of course. Drove home, listened to that album like four times that night, loved it.

Tracks is still there, although they mostly sell IU sweatshirts and other logo junk. Dagwood’s is still there, although in a new building, and the old basement location is gone, and that was half the charm of the joint. Like I mentioned, Colonial Crest is getting torn down. I’d just heard they emptied the place out, squatters took over, and they lit the place on fire the other night. So, that’s a neat end to an era.

* * *

I have to travel in three weeks, and I’m a bit nervous about that. Not nervous, per se, but I’m not used to it, and I have no idea how to pack or prepare anymore. I keep fixating on what camera gear I will bring. Of course I want to use this as an excuse to buy a new mirrorless camera and lighten the load, but I need to not do that. I swore to myself last Thanksgiving that I would not buy another DSLR until I took another 10,000 pictures on my main camera body. Since then, I’ve shot 7,800, and it’s starting to get nice outside and I expect to rack up a lot more. To be honest, my current 2016 Canon Rebel T6i does about everything I need. I would like a full-frame sensor, a built-in GPS, and a viewfinder level. I’ll keep going with the T6i for a bit longer.

Depending on how the trip goes, I need to start thinking about more travel, but I have no idea what that means. At the start of 2020, when I had a week to take off but no idea on trips, I researched everything, trying to find something neat or new or inspirational or whatever. I flinched, didn’t find anything I was completely sold on, and went to Vegas. As I was there, the pandemic was picking up steam, and I got out just in time.

When I was trying to line up that trip, and I guess the one before, I had this complicated ten-axis criteria list that had to do with distance versus price versus temperature versus hassle versus newness versus six other things. And now I have to add to that the general safety factor of the place virus-wise, and the test requirements to cross an international border. So, no idea what the other travel will be this year.

* * *

A few people enjoyed the last thing about blogs, so maybe I need to write more about that. Or maybe I just need to write more in general.

One thing I’ll mention, as it’s been a decent waste of time, is that I started using to collect together and save bookmarks. I know, you can just save them in the browser, whatever. But there’s some intrinsic value to me to doing it this way, and has died (or has it?) and I don’t know of a better way. Anyway, I have a ton of saved bookmarks, from various browsers and and exported Safari reading lists and whatever else, and I dumped them all into this thing. A benefit of my memory being completely gone these days is I can go back and read stuff I bookmarked in 2014 and I occasionally find gems. I mean, 60% of it is dead, and about half of the remainder has to do with self-publishing garbage I don’t have to deal with anymore. But it’s fun to pick through this, and it’s even better when I can find a current blog that I enjoy reading.

And yeah, ironically, I worked at Frankov’s startup doing this exact thing in 1999, a bookmark manager. Maybe too ahead of its time, I guess.

* * *

OK, 11 minutes until dinner. I guess I’m not going to do this 47-hour Lightroom class this weekend.


Cat, Back, Seattle, Dream

First things first, Squeak seems back to normal. She spent a week in cat jail, this playpen thing with a mesh roof on top, something we had from when she broke her leg back in 2009. We’d let her out here and there for supervised play time, but there are metal stairs and too many ledges and things for her to jump on. She was also on a heavy dose of gabapentin, which kept her pretty sedate. But by about day four or five, she was getting restless, and we were lowering the dosage. She seems fine now, and the jail has been taken down, so that’s all good. If the idiots in my neighborhood would cut the shit with the fireworks, things would be perfect in cat-land.

* * *

I guess I didn’t mention it, but my back has been out for about two weeks. It started on a Sunday, and of course there’s no great story behind it, like that I was jumping from a helicopter or fighting sharks or whatever. I think I was putting away a tube of toothpaste after brushing my teeth in the morning.

I have the occasional thrown back, a pulled muscle or whatever, but this is probably the worst one in memory. Maybe back in 2015, I had a situation that lasted about a week, but this one is considerably worse. Sitting, standing, walking, laying down: all were bad. So I iced it every hour, and kept on the TENS thing constantly. (If you have back or muscle pain and you don’t know about these, it’s the best $40 you’ll ever spend. Go to Amazon and pick one up immediately.) I’ve also got the chiro doing some work on it, and it’s getting there, but I haven’t shaken it yet.

My conspiracy theory on this is that the sudden weight loss over the last few months (I’m just shy of 25 pounds since April) is pulling everything out of alignment. Great news that my gut is going away, but my back muscles are used to a certain amount of tension there, and it’s all shifting. So the back tenses up, the pelvis tilts, the front of my thighs are overworked and hurt, etc. It’s getting there, but it’s been brutal. Hopefully in another couple of weeks, I can get it fully under control.

* * *

I figured out the vacation stuff, after a big struggle with travel sites and destinations and stuff. Anyway, I will be in Seattle from the 7th to the 14th of next month, which will be interesting. Aside from a plane change at SeaTac, I haven’t been back to Seattle since I left in the spring of 1999. And things have 100% changed, from what I hear.

Example: I will be staying in Northgate. As I mentioned in The Death of Northgate, the mall in Northgate is completely dead, and currently getting torn down. The Denny’s is long gone, as is the pancake house where I ate brunch every Saturday for years. Northgate is an okay-ish place for me to stay, because it’s by the highway and I didn’t have to pay another sixty bucks a day to park. But it will be weird.

I was also thinking about driving versus public transit, and I think all of the systems other than the busses happened after I lived there. Sound Transit was nothing more than an ongoing political argument when I left, and had a major scandal after that, but seems to now have a light rail system going everywhere, plus a streetcar system that goes very close to my old digs in First Hill. I’ll probably try it out, but I have a feeling I’ll spend a lot of the trip driving giant circles on the Jon Konrath Reality Tour when I get there.

I have no real plans yet, and need to work on that. I might try to go to a Mariners game, and tick that ballpark off my list. The MoPop is something I definitely want to check out. I will also probably do all the usual shit, Pike Place and Pioneer Square (which I hear is a bit dodgy now) and whatever else. Plus all the remaining malls, I guess.

If you are in Seattle, ping me and we can hang out, too.

* * *

Last night’s dream was this technical failure loop where I was trying to buy a Queen album to listen to out of curiosity or whatever, and I could not find one. I was scrolling through three devices: a phone, an ipad, and some kind of music review/player tablet thing. I’d find a hit on one device and it would redirect to the other; the search button would vanish on the tablet thing; the band’s entire discography would be missing from Apple Music; google searches would either go to articles about the queen of England or would just redirect to ads. I wondered if Universal was in a fight with Apple and pulled everything, or if I was just having a senior moment with the technology. And I started to almost see the edges of the dream, caught myself thinking “Is this really happening?”