Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something in my eye...

There are times that I am truly cynical. That I loose much of my faith in mankind. War, disease, hatred. It seems that there is a never ending supply of misery dispensed by my fellow howling monkeys.

Then I see something like this and I smile. And laugh. I remember that we sometimes aren't complete assholes. Sometimes we do nice things for people we don't even know.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Trying to do right

I am not what one would call a greener or an environmentalist. But I have a healthy respect for the planet. I do what small things I can. But when we moved to Wellington we learned that although recycling was available everywhere around us, WE did not have it.

If we wanted to recycle, we could take our aluminum cans and paper to the local recycling center on Thursday between 6-8pm and Saturday from 12 - 3 pm. That's it. We couldn't even drop it off after hours as the collection bins were locked up.

Awesome. Despite this severe annoyance we did start recycling. We flattened cans and stored up large garbage bags of them for infrequent drop offs. We also started collecting paper which we would drop off at collection points when we went to visit Rossanas father. No plastic or glass collection at all.

But yesterday Waste Management dropped off a shiny new green can and announced they are joining a program called recyclebank. Apparently they will now take paper, glass, plastic, and aluminium in the same can without any sorting. SWEET!

Even better, we get points for the amount we recycle which can be used for goods and/or services. The program looks legit and I am excited we can actually recycle more now without jumping through a bunch of ridiculous hoops.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pioneers...

If you have a television you may have seen this Levi's commercial:




While I am not what one could call a devotee of poetry I knew this wasn't written by some agency hack. It's Walt Whitman and you can find it here. It's good stuff. Apparently Levi-Strauss has a kind of scavenger hunt associated with this add campaign. It led to $100,000. It would have been nice if they had told someone about this contest. Just throwing a website at us means little in this age of constant advertising bombardment.

But I'm okay with having gotten a great poem out of it.

Bonus- The other commercial in this series features the voice Walt Whitman reading his poem "America"from a wax cylinder. It's both sweet and haunting.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Catching up...

This short video gives an accurate (if oversimplified) history of what's been going on in Afghanistan since 2001. It's worth a watch. While the long term stability of Iraq is anyones guess they do have the advantage of having something to sell and some national infrastructure. Afghanistan on the other hand is simply brimming with misery, religious nuts on all sides and bumper crops of dope and opium.

Our military, while doing a fine job under very difficult circumstances, isn't the total answer. This place needs schools, moderate clerics and a secure border with Pakistan where the Taliban like to vacation before coming home and shooting shit up.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tatoos

For the longest time I was a firm believer in the "Modifications may void the manufacturers warranty" school of thought. Piercings and tattoos were out for me. Time has certainly mellowed this view. I know some people with ink and they are pretty cool. I don't let it color my impressions of them. Piercing still make me flinch a little. But then again, I have seen a lot of piercings that are waaaaay past the earlobes or eyebrow. Then there's this guy:


The Enigma

Looks kinda....strange? But I met him a few years ago at a show and he was extremely well spoken, pleasant and polite. A bit of a nerd. Married too. Nice guy.

While ink has gained pretty widespread acceptance big piercings still get stares. So drilling a hole through my nose or shoving a spike through my ear isn't likely in my future.


But what about a tattoo? I sometimes wonder what I would get permanently inked onto my skin if I weren't descended from Yetti's. Picture? Text? Alchemical formula? The options are limitless. Because I wear no jewelry I once gave serious thought to getting a tattoo of my wedding ring on my ring finger. But in the end it really wasn't needed was it? I know I'm married and committed to my wife and I don't need a piece of jewelry to remind me of that.

I guess its unlikely I'll ever get any ink. Unless maybe... pirate map on my skull?? Hmmmm...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Simple pleasures

I was a sign maker for years, which is why watching protesters these days both amuses and horrifies me. Here is a fine collection. Enjoy.




I'm gonna a write me a letter...

Inspired by this story of a young and unknown David Bowie writing a personal letter to a fan.

Have you ever written a letter to a famous person and gotten a response?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

God saves the day!

Or not..

A woman lets gets kids starve for 11 days, making no effort to get help because "God would help them".

God was apparently busy doing something else. Luckily none of the kids died. Look, if you you're going to believe in an invisible sky wizard (and you have every right to) Understand that he/she/it gave you a BRAIN. If you look at all recorded history God shows up in person very very infrequently. His creations are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. He supposedly made us that way. So stop sponging off of God(tm)!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

You learn something new every day..

Today I learned that the Roman vomitorium isn't what what I thought it was. Go check out wikipedia and then read this.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pure Awesome...

I don't know who was responsible for this. But they are my hero. This isn't the product of some one being lazy. This took work and a lot of love. If you don't know the inspiration for this, you are likely under 30. And that's a shame.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Magnificent and stupid

You should view this amazing young man as he flourishes cards is ways that simply seem mystical.



The music for this piece way also quite pleasing to my ears and thanks to the Internets you can listen to the original piece here.

The modified version used in the video above is called Opéra from "Métropolitain" by DJ Emmanuel Santarromana.
The stupid part comes when you look up the music on iTunes. The full name of the piece is
"Vivaldi - Nisi Dominus - Cum dederit - Mingardo" but thanks to words being able to kill people the "Cum" is censored to "C*m".

Really?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Horaay for fixing

Hey, I like buying shiny new tools as much as (or more) than the next guy. So when the rechargeable air mattress inflater started pooping out halfway through the job of giving me a place to sleep this season I had to take action. I took a trip to Home Depot where I found a cool Ryobi inflater that would use my 18v cordless drill batteries. Sweet! But at thirty something bucks...

I decided I had nothing to loose so I cracked open the old unit and found a battery. If course, it wasn't any kind of normal battery. That would be too easy. Fierce googling ensued and eventually I found something as close as I could and trusted to fate.

The battery arrived today and damn if it wasn't a perfect fit. I even managed to find all the screws to put it back together again. Total cost? $19. There is indeed something deeply satisfying about fixing something yourself. It would have been easier to just buy the new inflater or a new computer system but this was I saved a few bucks and learned a little bit in the process.

It's okay to lie to us...

So it seems one of the secret C.IA. black sites was set up near Vilnius in Lithuania in what was once a fancy horseback riding academy. This is one of those places we were told didn't exist that did things we said we wouldn't do.

Remember, Lithuania isn't exactly the desolate back woods of Afghanistan. They are our ally. And they are understandably pissed. Imagine Lithuania used a shell company to rent the old Higbees department store building in Cleveland. Then they build a torture facility in it and lie to you and the world about it. You might be upset with Lithuania for doing something like that. After all, this is our country. If you want to hold and torture terrorism suspects, you should do it in your own goddamn country.

But for some reason we are scared shitless of these guys. It's like they have some kind of superpowers. Conservatives are shaking in their boots at the thought of bringing any of these suspects to the U.S. for trial. Whether they should be tried by the military or the civilian courts is a worthy debate. I feels the military option had been pretty much tainted at this point. After all, look how the military (with the Whitehouse's direct permission) handled capturing, holding and interrogating them.

Actions have consequences. We will be cleaning up GW's shit for years to come.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

iphone > Droid

I went to the mall the other day (shiver) to put my meaty paws on the new Droid smartphone from Verizon. Like any iphone owner, I would gladly pay a hefty fine and/or take hit to the nuts if I could switch from AT&T's craptastic network to Verizon's land of milk and honey.

And with the coming of Droid I thought that I might have found a reason to undergo the painful process of migration. After all, the phone is getting rave reviews. It uses the Android OS from Google which is far more open that Apple's. New apps appearing every day, free GPS navigation using google maps. What's not to love?

Well, the Droid IS good, but it's not awesome, at least in my opinion based on limited hands on experience.

It is well made. Solid. Nice looking. The screen is very sharp. But what they put on it is not nearly as polished as the iphone. It's cluttered. I know it can be configured however you want it but using it wasn't the simple process I'd hoped it would be.

The biggest drawback is the physical keyboard. It just isn't isn't made for my fingers. Period. They sit on a flat plain and one has to depress the center to activate them. The Sidekick had a much better keyboard for us big folk. The on-screen keyboard was okay, but not great. I am sure with practice I could be proficient with it. People have said the camera, while 5 MP, isn't all that great.

But for me, the biggest stumbling black was tapping on some kind of news bubble app and having it crash. Then I launched another app, and it crashed. Two crashes? Really? The Droid can run several programs at once, unlike the iphone. But it's rare that I'm listening to Pandora while IM'ing and uploading pics to my facebook account. And if I do try to do several things at once, the delay in starting an iphone app up is about a second. (Games do tend to take longer to launch). I was impressed, I just wasn't wow'ed.

It is on the network I crave. And with a little polish I am sure the usability will improve. But for now I am still happy with my iphone. It does what I need it to do without any fiddling or crashing. That's my 2 cents. Anyone got one out there who cares to share their experience?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In praise of beer...

No, not that kind. Most beer tastes awful to me. But Ginger Beer? Heaven! And the best maker of this nectar of the gods is an Australian company called Bundaberg. You can find this stuff at many World Market stores. While it doesn't have any alcohol, it is quite tasty. Give it a try.

I can be bribed with this


Thursday, November 05, 2009

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse...

Truly I am not. Especially since the horse really isn't dead here. Although Gitmo will likely be closed conditions at Bahgram Airbase in Afghanistan are said to be business as usual (i.e. brutal).

But it is very important to look at the faces of those we unlawfully detained and tortured. It's important to listen to these guys. It is important to learn from this mistake. I am all for getting terrorists. But somewhere along the line here we monumentally fucked up and picked up these guys. And we KEPT them. For YEARS. We also tortured them. Now, one could argue that our torture wasn't as bad as other countries torture. Perhaps so. But it's still torture. And of course, there are those who died while in our custody. Those who committed suicide when they lost all hope of ever being free.

One could argue that there are always innocent casualties in war. One might argue that the ends justified the means. That through this treatment, we managed to keep America safe. But most reports I have read seem to indicate that this isn't the case. Most seasoned interrogators have stated that torture is not effective. So why did we do it? Did we, as a nation, go mad? I think so. And in this blind rage, in this quest to punish we ignored the core of what makes this country truly great. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.



Sunday, November 01, 2009

I'm gonna write more than a letter...

Like many people I've been keen to upgrade my computer to the shiny new Windows 7 OS. I ran the beta on my laptop for a while at it really is how Vista SHOULD have been. Lot of fixes. Better usability. Clean. I did the install on the laptop without incident, going from Vista to Windows 7 allows for an 'in place' upgrade that keeps programs and files intact. While a clear slate is always best, my laptop wasn't loaded with crap and the results were good.

My desktop however, runs XP. You cannot upgrade XP to Vista. You have to do a clean install and then re-install ALL your programs. For me, thats a LOT of programs. But I was resigned to it. My system has been running slow, giving me plug and play errors. Nothing game stopping, but annoying. But just as I was getting ready to do the deed I came across a program from Laplink that promissed it could actually backup and move my XP programs to Windows 7. I did some research and it looked like a good deal. The software is about $20 or $9 if you download it from Amazon.com. I did the backup. Installed Windows 7 (which went quite fast) and then started the unpacking process. Bam! Sorry mate, you don't have enough room. But I'm just moving files around, why do I need gobs of space?

No answer from their website.

Actually, no website.

It seems that my wireless card wasn't working. No internet. Luckily I have my trusty laptop. I won't bore you with the gory research details. Suffice it to say I wasted about 4 hours downloading drivers, updates, software, more drivers. At one point I got my onboard soundcard working. Great! I didn't know it wasn't woking, but okay. (I use USB wireless headphones that bypass the sound card).

Eventually, out of desperation I went back to the Linksys support site. I did searched for Windows 7 info. I looked up my card again and carefully read the FAQ's. Funny thing, there's no info on Windows 7, but there IS info on Vista drivers. I click a link, download a 500k file, use a thumb drive to move it to the desktop system, clicky clicky and guess what... internets.

Really Linksys?

You've known about this OS for about a year, just like everyone else. It's not like it just sprung forth from the sea like Venus on the Half Shell. It's not like this hardware is old or from an obscure maker. It's f*cking Linksys! And you can't bother to build a driver for your product? Or ever put up a LINK to a blurd that sayd 'Hey, Windows 7 users, use there Vista drivers, they're just peachy" ???

This is the sort of thing that makes me want to buy a place ticket, fly to California to their corporate headquarters, wait patiently in the waiting roon and then, upon meeting the person responsible for not getting this driver in place, punch them squarely in the balls.

Repetitively.

Now that I've got my internets back I will call the Laplink people tomorrow to see if indeed I can do this in place upgrade. Computers... indestinguishable from evil pixies.

Happy Halloween all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Le Commedia ist fini

Yesterday was the last day of the Ohio Renaissance faire, and in effect, the end of the 2009 sales season. Today,we packed up in weather so nice it seemed criminal not to just stand there and admire it, soak it in. A far cry from years when we pulled out as snowflakes began drifting from leaden skies.

I say this is the end of the season but in truth there never really IS an end. Just a lull. Ground work needs to be laid for the winter shows, contracts must be filled out etc etc...

But I feel compelled to draw a line, imaginary as it may be, in the sand and say "This is where this season ended." If only for my mental health. Early on I knew this was going to be a rough one and I created a mantra to deal with it "Just survive". This worked pretty well in keeping me from loosing my shit when the numbers started coming in. I knew that if I started to stress out I would not make it through the season. Although it would have saved me money I didn't get rid of my sales help at Michigan or Ohio. To do so would have put more pressure on me, more stress, worn me out much quicker. And it might not have generated significantly higher profits. My minions were a big help and I appreciate the work they did this year under tough circumstances. They helped keep me sane. Michele, Kendra, Dan, Lindsey, Jesse and Shy. Thanks for all your help.

I'm going to take a little time to catch my breath. Not too long. There's work to do. But while there are still a few nice days left I'd like to pay some much needed attention to the house and grounds. Get crap organized and put away a little. Maybe read a book in the hammock. Ohhh that's be nice....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm going... into the clouuuuuuuuuud...

Last week my desktop stopped working. Most likely the power supply is starting to go. Although my data was not damaged I couldn't get to it for a few days. Yes, I have a portable hard drive I use for backups but my most recent emails and most recently created files weren't available. I also couldn't write checks using my accounting program.

That sucked.

So I started working on ways to get my important and current data on the cloud (storing it on the internet). My upstream speed isn't fast enough to do total backups on line unless I want to leave my system on all night (I don't) and I don't need everything, just some important files that are constantly being updated. My first attempt? Dropbox. This is a nifty little app. You get 2GB free. Install it on two computers, save or drop any file in a special folder and BAM it gets synched. It also saves older versions in case you delete something at home. You can even have a public folder that anyone can see without a password. Cool.

So far, so good, but I like to keep minimal sensitive data on my laptop. I don't store passwords or important work files on it in case it gets stolen. Dropbox, however, is quite happy to copy important files right to my laptop including stuff I dont want everyone in the world to see.

There are two options;
1) don't install the app on my laptop and access my info through their website using a username and password.

2) Encryption. I can use TrueCrypt to encrypt any sensitive files so that even if they are on my laptop, they are protected.

The first option is easiest. Drawbacks? What if dropbox hands over my data to the gubment? (I'm looking at you phone companies, this has happened before) I also loose the helpful feature of simple synchronization. If I download an important file and alter it, I have to then upload it and then delete it locally. Annoying. With synch, if I am writing a story on one system, the latest version will automatically me available on the other, which is neat.

With encryption, I have to go through a setup process with TrueCrypt which basically creates a single size file. Down side? That whole file has to get synched each time I change it, even a small change. Upside? Available even if I don't have a net connection.

I am going to go for the second option for now. Test it and see how it works. Again, I can't store everything online, but in the event something goes very wrong, I will be able to get up and running on another system quickly. And of course, there's an iphone app that lets me access the non encrypted stuff as well. Sweet. I'm off... into the clouuuuuuuuud

Have any of you flirted with this idea? Anyone else getting rid of software installed on their computer and instead use web apps? Post in comments.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shock the monkey...

Back in 1984 or so I picked up a cassette sitting on a table in the audio/video department at Bay High School. It belonged to a tech guy who worked part time for the school. It was marked "Peter Gabriel-Live". I popped it into a cheap cassette player, put on a pair of craptastic headphones and proceeded to have my mind absolutely blown.

The music was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It sure as hell wasn't Pink Floyd or pop music. It was something mesmerizing, haunting. From the first track (The Rhythm of the heat) to the desolate and sad "Biko". I listened to it over and over. One of the first CD's I ever owned was Peter Gabriel and when I got to hear his music on a semi-good system it blew my mind all over again.

You might know his more popular tunes Shock the Monkey, Salisbury Hill or Sledgehammer. But you owe it to yourself to listen to some of his other works. He did the soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ and is a central part of Real World studios.

A while back he provided the source track to some of his songs and invited to people to remix them as they wished. The results were pretty cool. You can listed to a warped but very cool version of Shock the Monkey here:



Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Watch this...

Eating Elizabethan for a week. Absolutely awesome.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Listening to words

The recent gathering in Washington D.C. was quite impressive. Sure, it didn't actually have 2 million participants. That apparently was a lie. But there were a LOT of angry (mostly white) people loudly venting their disapproval of our government and our President.

Good for them. That is their right. They apparently had a lot to complain about. For the moment, I'd like to set aside some of these people. The abortion protesters have an actual point in that abortion is still legal. They have a position and a stated goal. The Jesus freaks, well, they believe that the bible should run the show. Obama is a Muslim. They also have a position. It's crazy. but they are led by the book their invisible sky wizard gave them. Arguing with them is fruitless. In the immortal words of Dr. House "If you could reason with religious people, there wouldn't be any religious people.".

Then there are those who oppose a whole host of things the government is doing. You can tell this by the 10 second flashes shown on the news and the sound bites of people yelling. But what are these people actually saying? What do they actually believe? A young man apparently went through the crowd and talked to some of these people. And the results are so cringe worthy as to be physically painful.





These people traveled great distances, made signs, got up early and marched to protest things they have no fucking clue about. Seriously. These are dumb people. Now, it is possible that there were some well spoken people with well reasoned objections to certain government bills or policies. But I have never seen them. Where are they? Where are the ones who aren't screaming about death panels and socialism?

When I attended a war protest a few years ago there were certainly a wide range of opinions about our government. From reformers to anti-globalists to outright anarchists. But if you stopped and talked to them you would hear about why they wanted the war in Iraq ended. They knew about the bad intel, the lies, the smokescreen of Al Qaeda the torture of prisoners, warrantless wiretapping. I'm sure a few of them wanted the president overthrown because he secretly was a pawn of the Trilateral commission or the Freemasons, but they still KNEW THINGS based on FACTS. And the interesting thing was the makeup of the protest crowd. Young and old, white and black, Christian and Muslim. They were concerned about a people and a war that didn't affect many of them directly. After all, they weren't being bombed or rounded up and sent to CIA black sites. But the screaming heads on TV these days seem only to care about two things. Themselves and "their" America. To listen to them you'd think that is a brown shirted Obama Youth and FEMA camps for dissidents ready to materialize ANY SECOND. That their guns are already being taken away and government money is being spent right this second on free abortions for gay married couples. All over a burning Bible.

These are scared, stupid, people. And I have no idea how to counteract this level of stupidity. How can you have a discussion with them?

A few give lip service to the idea of making the world a better place for "the children". Hey Cletus, if you wanted a better world you might have spent less time breeding and more time educating yourselves and your offspring.

pant*pant*pant

Ok, I'm gonna go over to cuteoverload.com now and lower my blood pressure...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sweet tee's

If you're looking for a nice t-shirt based on your fav movie take a click over to Last Exit to Nowhere. There are some nice designs there for logo junkies like myself.


Via BoingBoing.net

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mornin' sunshine

The guys who run the maze across from us are pretty fun. We share a
few quick words during the day when we can, a friendly bit of verbal
sparring. This morning one showed off some new plumes in his cavalier
hat.

"Nothing says pretentious asshole like an obnoxious collection of
plumage".
he said, jauntilly adjusting the half a pheasant stapled to his brim.

"Really? I dare say there are a great many things about you that
scream pretentious asshole. Those boots for instance ' or your
doublet, the effite walking stick you use or perhaps your mug. So many
things sir conspire within you to form a kind of macrocosm of
assholery!"

The young man was actually left momentarily speachless. He then shook
my hand and congratulated me on a job well done. I'm sure later on I
will be on the receiving end of one of these rants. This is how we
pass the hours sometimes.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The wheels of commerce...

On our way home from Michigan. I'm the one with the cold now but a
decent weekend of sales somewhat makes up for a head full of crap. But
no rest fir the wicked... We are off to Ohio ren shortly to work on
our roof and hopefully make a nice living space for our minions.

We are listening to a book on cd about the construction of St. Peters
bascillica. Facinating stuff. Horrifying in that it had so little to
do with Jesus and his teachings, but keen from political,
architectural and artistic point of view.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Metal Pirates!

And now for your listening pleasure: Alestorm.

I'm not sure if these guys are god awful or awfully good. Post your opinion.



Listen to more here at Last.fm

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More clever monkeys

Ok, I'm gonna need someone to take my wallet for a few weeks so I cannot order this thing. I mean, a working tricorder media player? For $350? Dammit! This is the kind of thing I would have given my left nut for a back in my more fervent fanboy days. And now that I'm a "responsible" adult I'm supposed to 'just say no'? Fuck that!

Okay... deep breath. As long as I don't ever actually touch one in person I should be safe.

Maybe.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jesus Christ it's a Lion! Get in the car!

There was no greater genius than DaVinci. And this shit right here proves it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Get up that hill

There's no way around it. This season, most recently this Pennsic War event was pretty brutal. I feel like I have been stumbling around, unable to get a solid footing. And when I thought I was on solid ground, something would rush up and smack me. Car problems, friends and acquaintances telling me of rough times, health problems, divorce, job loss.

And business? It was down almost 45 percent. That's a huge fucking drop. Then there were the rains and the inevitable mud. What else, oh yeah; my goddamned nemesis Beverle parked her ass right across the street from us. The single worst vendor I have ever known. A liar and a cheat. Kicked out of six different Ren-Faire's. Yet she somehow suckered some poor merchant to give her some space to set up her crap. Swell.

My chief minion Lindsey, who I love like my own kid has been a bit of a fuck up recently. I won't go into details. She's hit a hard patch like the rest of us.

We left Pennsic after the usual dark-thirty loadout. Rossana in a grim mood because Pennsic doesn't feel like Pennsic to her anymore (and that hurts to hear) only to have a full day of rain the next day at Great Lakes with accompanying shitty sales. The vendors at the show are now being cited by the local town for not having a 'local transient vendors license', something we don't fucking need under Ohio law but still threatens the livelihood of everyone working the show. Everyone is on pins and needles. Rumors run rampant.

Then we got the cherry. Russ shows up. He's an on site EMT. He tells us that his brother Hoss died at Pennsic that morning.

I've known Hoss for something like 7 years now. He was overweight, crude, politically incorrect, a know-it-all and an overall great guy. He took shitty care of himself but once threatened to kill a guy who accidentally cut the power to his camper where he kept his dogs diabetes medicine in the fridge. I talked with him Friday morning as we rushed around getting ready to pack up. Russ claimed he wasn't broken up about it, that he and his brother were just on polite terms. But he was seething. Hoss was told by EMT's on site at Pennsic three times that he was having a heart attack and he refused to go to the hospital. You just couldn't tell Hoss what to do.

At this point I just wanted to go home. But we couldn't. Sunday was the hottest day of the summer so far as I could tell. And the longest. We rolled in at about 11pm last night but we head out Wednesday morning for GenCon, which I pray isn't bad.

At Pennsic our camp it at the bottom of a hill. And every day you have to climb that hill. I've been doing it at Pennsic for something like 24 years. This year it took more, much more to get up that hill. It's not that I'm in bad shape. It was just the weight of all the things around me, pressing down. It would be easy just to stay in camp. A lot of my friends do. They seem content with that. But I can't. And this year once again showed me that stopping is not an option. Gotta keep moving. I've gotta get up that hill.

I never thought I'd be happy to see Winter and the end of a season.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Midnight madness

This is the day that all the merchants stay open late and offer
incentives to lure people I to their shops. The streets are lit with
lanterns and torches. How did we do? Meh. Way below last year But it
doesn't matter. Because there's an almost full moon whose rays stream
through the trees and a thick mist on the lake. It's beautiful beyond
words and that is truly the more important thing.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Blurry

More light rain again this morning. No need to get up. Sleep... I am
awakened by someone in out camp pounding on an anvil, literally. No
more sleep. It's late. I stumble to the shower but the water Is
lukewarm at best. Grim and Kayra waylay me with banana bread, juice
and eggs. We chat. I should be up on merchants row trying to sell. But
my energy level has been so low. Some of the time I just don't hive a
crap. I don't want to deal with people. I think to myself "I'm done".
I think that working Pennsic, an event that has always been a
vacation, was a bad idea. But more than that is the fact that my own
camp has changed so much. People I don't know whom I dont have much of
a shared history with. Mundane conversations at the campfire. I feel
slightly out of place.

The crappy weather and poor sales haven't helped things, but it really
isn't about money. Am I still having fun? Is there still magic here?
We have six days left. I'll let you know what I find.


Sent from my iPhone

Pennsic night

Late. Very late. I wander into camp just as the women folk are getting ready for a night out.
I sit with the men folk and have a cider. A pipe is
passed and I find myself wandering over to Vlads for the slave auction. I finally get to say hi to Ariana who got to attend Pennsic thanks to her father (whom she hates) dying, thus getting her out of Qatar. The butler in me takes over and I help serve some great pomegranite mead and canapé. It's hot, a light rain Patters on against the roof of be tent. I stumble back to camp where Wine and Alchemy are playing. I visit Darter who is busy cooking up sausages at one am. We eat. Tasty. It feels more like Pennsic now. Eyes are heavy. Feet so tied. Only a so-so day. Another long solo day tomorrow. The heat saps my energy. I need sleep.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I am not a number.. I am a free man!

It was many years ago that I first heard the original BBC show 'The Prisoner'. I say heard, not saw. My brother recorded them and played them for me when he visited. (No VCR, No tivo in those ancient times) It was a trippy show. Even more so when I actually got to see it. And the ending? Pure madness.

Now it's being redone. But from what I can see, it looks and FEELS just as whacked out (if not more so) than the original. Behold.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Joy

This upcoming Pennsic will mark my 10 year anniversary. I enjoyed my own wedding. I enjoyed having my family come and play with us a little while. I enjoyed creating my own service, not going into debt or having to rent a church/hall/limo, I loved having chicken wings and having Pennsic as our reception.

Weddings can be a source of joy, and I am all for anything that brings joy into the world. So with that in mind here is a great wedding procession/dance number.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Preparing to sprint

The lineup: Great Lakes, then Pennsic, then Gen-Con and then opening Michigan. It's gonna be fun, especially since our van has decided it needs yet another expensive repair. Sweet!

Right now I am working on a new system to get swiped credit card transactions to work out at Great Lakes. It involves a laptop, a usb card reader, a printer, and Lindseys' new Verizon phone used as a modem by tethering it. All I have to do is get all of these items to work seamlessly together and I'm in business. Piece of cake.

Rossana got the results of her tests back and she seems to be doing okay. Apparently she had an ulcer at one point, but it healed up. She's taking some previcid and trying to keep her stress levels down. Thanks the Gods she got the go ahead to eat some of her favorite foods again. if this woman doesn't get some chocolate soon she will flip out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I try to respect other beliefs, but sometimes I think its important to listen to some of the faithfuls actual words. So here they are:

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Playing hookey

I looked out at the deck. It sat there, mocking me in its ugliness.

"You'll never get rid of me" it said. "There will always be more pressing projects."

"But I hate you." I said to the wood and brick monstrosity.

"I know, but it's too late to do anything this summer anyway. You open Great Lakes in a weeeeeeeek" it hissed at me.

And then I got the crowbar and screw gun.

In a couple of hours the railing was gone and I was working on the flooring. But the weather kept threatening rain. Also, tearing out the deck turned out to be...you know...work.

"We need to get out of here!" I said.

"Are you talking to me or the deck this time?" my wife asked.

"What? You, of course. Pack a bag. We're leaving."

And so we did. We grabbed our passports, some money and a change of clothes and took off for Niagara Falls. It's been many years since my last visit and I've never done a lot of the touristy things there. That was about to change. We took the more western Peace bridge and sailed through customs. Then we drove along the lovely Niagara Parkway. Once we hit the town we parked and set off for adventure. We rode the Maid of the Mist, which was awesome. In the morning we drove North into wine country. We visited a butterfly conservatory, a printing museum, bought some fresh cherries and indulged a dream of mine, a helicopter trip.

You know how I've blabbed that I wouldn't have a problem sitting next to a 'brown person' on an airplane because fear mongering in stupid? Well, I got the chance to put my money where my mouth was.

It seems a nice Muslim family wanted to take a helicopter ride. Ok. Cool. But then the men didn't want to go along. Just the wives (wearing burkas) and kids. Ooookay. Then the fuss started. You see, any time you go to an attraction at Niagara Falls, someone will snap your picture for the inevitable souvenir photo at the end. I knew this wasn't going to go well. The dutifull young woman tried to take shots of all of us and the women kept trying to tell her that they DID NOT want their picture taken. It was, in a word, awkward. Once the copter arrived we piled in. Strangely, they put one of the mothers in the front next to the pilot, and me, Rossana, the other mom and the two kids in the back. Why not keep that group together? Why not put the one male adult in the front? I don't know and there was no chance to debate when there are whiling blades of death above you.

Off we go, and it was AWESOME. I took some video with the new phone which I'll post soon. It was a trip flying high above the Falls. The helicopter was buffeted a little by the winds which gave it that slight roller coaster feeling. I can't tell of the ladies enjoyed the trip, and the one little boy sitting across from me spent most of the trip eyeballing ME as if I might do something crazy.

We crossed over to the American side and parked on Goat Island. I wanted to visit the cave of the winds (where you walk right up to the bottom of the waterfall and can also go behind it. But the wait was between 2-3 hours. Fail.

We strolled to the Amercian and Horseshoe edges before deciding to head home (with a quick stop to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo for some take out wings, of course).

I'm glad we took the trip, it's our last chance before the season starts and it's all work.

Update! Pics are Here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Nothing happened today..

I was keen to see what was happening in Iran over the weekend, but I couldn't. Apparently the death of Michael Jackson was the ONLY goddamn thing worth covering for four days straight.

But I don't want to be disrespectful of the dead, so here a small bird moonwalking.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Post-Party.....

Wow.

That was a good party. If you missed it, well...what can I say that will make you feel better? Nothing. That's what. If you missed it I feel very sorry for you. Your life is poorer for it and I hope you can join us next year.


I had a blast. We launched our newest boat onto the pond and not only did my repairs work we had ship to ship water battles. That helped us keep much cooler. Bison Burgers? Tasty. Lots of Frisbee hacking. Some friends dropping by who I haven't seen in literally years.

My friends Joe and Christine from Monolith Graphics put together a VERY cool scavenger hunt over the entire property with a sweet map and prizes. I've wanted to do that for years but never had the time and focus. It was a blast.

Ed brought some amazing ribs and let me take his 911 for a spin at VERY LEGAL AND REASONABLE SPEEDS WHILE OBEYING ALL TRAFFIC LAWS.

So much food and drink...

Showed off some new corsets materials and the scarves from Turkey.

And fireworks? The theme this year was "Hard times". We did a short and fairly lame routine to a polite applause, then brought out round two. More boom, a couple of mini mortars. More applause and the crowd assumed that was it. Tthen we brought out the big stuff. Lots of bangs, big finale. Looked great. And all while sticking to a much smaller budget this year.

Drums were produces and two musicians played guitar and fiddle. I took a few people for candle lit rides in the darkened pond.

Clean up this morning wasn't too bad. Items left behind include some flip flops, a car key,a silver wrist bracelet and two people we found sleeping on a futon in the back of their car.

I can't thank everyone enough who came out to our remote little Hobbit Hole. I hope you had as good a time as I did. If you took pictures please send me a disk or post them to flickr and send me a link.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father-Son moment

Last week my Dad drove down from Boston, on his motorcycle again, at 72, despite having broken his neck a little over a year ago.

This act of sheer ballsiness shamed me into getting my own bike up and running again. It wasn't a huge project. I needed to actually order the new battery I'd put off and go get an oil filter. I didn't expect much. The bike hasn't run for quite a while. But with an oil change and some elbow grease, she fired right up. I spent a few hours cleaning her up and helping my Dad change the oil on his Honda Pacific Coast.

The experience was very strange for me. My parents were divorced when I was quite young, my brother went to life with my Dad while I was raised by my Mom and her second husband (who had his own son). But they eventually divorced when I entered Jr. High. As such, I never really had any of those father/son moments as I hit my teen years. My Mom, bless her heart, was amazingly cool with my strange hobbies and friends and did a great job as a single parent. And I learned to travel and to appreciate history and many other subjects from Jack Ellis, my Big Brother (Mentoring program). But he was more of a kindly Uncle or Grandfather figure. I just seemed to miss out on that special kind of cool bonding that some kids get with their Dad. And to tell the truth I'm sorry I did now.

I have never looked back at my childhood and regretted much of anything. I had a roof over my head, clothes, an allowance. I wasn't abused. Things were, for me, pretty good. But some of these kinds of moments would have been pretty nice too. I'm glad I had the chance to share one, even if it did take a while to happen.



So when we sat in the shop talking and working on our bikes it took me a while to even recognize we were having one of those special moments.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I am a huuuuug dork.

Of this there can be doubt. The proof? Check out 8 things you didn't know about the Enterprise. But this is not enough. Have an article on the Smithsonian restoration of the original 11 foot prop. Need more? Here are detailed pics of another restoration (there have been three)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Please stop being stoooooooopid.

There are certain advantages to being a self employed member of the Merchant Class. I tend to awaken late (if at all), my off season schedule allows me to travel to strange and exotic lands and showing my "Member of the Merchant Class" ID card allows me to get out of some very sticky situations involving the disposal of dead hookers.

But one thing that we are at the mercy of is Other Peoples Stupidity. This year, it was looking like the last weekend of the Great Lakes Fair would overlap with both the opening of the Michigan faire and GenCon. This is what we in "the business" call "teh suck" as it means I either split my stock 3 ways (with too little stock at all three shows)or split it two ways and leave my minion Jesse with at Great lakes to sell pictures of corsets from and empty booth. But wait! A ray of sunshine. A fellow merchant tells me Michigan moved back its opening one weekend. Sweet! This means I don't have to pack up Pennsic frantically, unpack, repack for two events, leave Ohio, drive up to Michigan, set up a booth, leave stock, and then drive to Minneapolis. Horay for sleep!

But wait! The contract for the Michigan fair arrived today, with a prominent sticker declaring the earlier starting date. The contract within also confirms the earlier, more sucky date. This begins a small flurry of mental activity, as we will once again have to make the grand tour of middle America AND rob one of my booths to satisfy the hunger of two big shows. There's nothing for it, we just have to bend over and take it.

By sheer chance I called the Michigan Ren offices to let them know that their website was incorrect and that they might want to fix that. 'No, No' I am told "the dates on the site are correct'.

"But by contract says otherwise, and my contract trumps a pimply 17 year old part timer on the phone."

"No, the Craft coordinator didn't have the correct dates and is now working to correct the mistake."

Now I know the craft coordinator has a lot on her plate. But really. The one thing you should really have a farking grip on is the dates of your event. Some merchants are on the road constantly, getting mail very infrequently. And contradicting info will surely mean that at least ONE merchant is going to be VERY pissed when he opens his booth on Sat Aug 15 and NO ONE IS F@CKING THERE. It will happen, of this I am sure. Some of these guys leave one show and roll in the night before the next show opens, working all night to prep their booth and set up stock.

I'm glad I won;t be one of them.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

At long last...

Last season they did a lot of location filming at the Michigan Ren Faire for the movie "All's Faire in Love". It looks like the trailer is out and it's getting a distributor.

It's weird seeing a place you know in movies. Some of the humor is pretty stupid. The lead actor also annoys the hell out of me. I mean really, I just want to punch him in the face. Take a look...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Last weekend we did MarCon in Columbus. Set up just behind us was a merchant I have known for a number of years. I would not call him more that an acquaintance. To say that we are on different ends of the political spectrum would be an understatement.

There are some who look askance at him for showing off pictures of his 12 year old daughter brandishing a pink AR-15 rifle. I do not. From what I can tell he has taught her a great deal about gun safety and handling. His sense of humor is a bit quirky. Not only does he sell shirts that say 'Infidel' it's also spelled out in Arabic.

But on Sunday morning even I did a double take when I saw his t-shirt which read "I'd rather be waterboarding".

Wow. I know there are far more offensive shirts over at places like t-shirt hell. But for me that once packed a bit of a punch. But unlike so many fat armchair quarterbacks and fighting keyboardists, this guy has actually served. So has his wife. Both have done multiple tours in 'The Sandbox'. So I'll give him some leeway. He's one of the people fighting for his country, for his family and for what he believes is right.

even if he is a bit of a dick...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Our last full day in Istanbul had only two items on the agenda. A visit to Topkapi Palace and to hit the Grand Bazaar for The Big Score.

One of these tasks went off pretty well, the other...

Despite an early start our guide quickly let us know that this wasn't going to be pretty. Two large cruise ships had pulled into port the night before. He counted about thirty tour buses in the immediate area and more pouring in. But that wasn't the fun part. Apparently THAT day was "Lets bring every goddamn school kid in Istanbul to Topkapi Palace day".

Awesome.

There were thousands of 'em. The place was thick with them. When I had visited 7 years ago in February my friend and I wandered the grounds with few others in sight. We strolled through the treasury rooms at a liesurely pace, taking our time. This time every building, every room was choked with people. I eventually gave up and sat outside, sending Rossana to see some of the wonders of the palace that was once the heart of the Ottoman Empire. She's wanted to see this place ever since watching a 1970's film of the same name. She was very dissapointed. It wasn't the Palace that dissapointed, just the crush of people. I did manage to meake a friend though. A pretty orance cat came by looking for food, but when he saw I had none he determined that I might still be good for something and promptly climbed into my lap.


We left the area and were led to one of the entrances of the Grand Bazaar. We were told the bus would leave in 2 hours. 2 HOURS?? We knew that that wasn't going to work for us. But we also couldn't stay too long as traffic could very likely trap us as the afternoon wore on. We headed off, having taken note of the exact route to take to the street of the scarf sellers. Then we promptly got turned all the hell around. The Grand Bazaar isn't just a large collection of streets that go in all directions, there are levels. Streets, passageways, gates, alleys and ramps. We backtracked slightly and I took us down a road that I SWORE went downhill last time I was there but was now uphill. I proved to be right and we at last found the shop we had visited two weeks earlier.

The young man we had spoken to recornized us immedielty. (I wonder how many firery red-heads he gets accompanied by 6'2" Arab types). No haggling needed to be done. We set about finding what we wanted. It quickly became apparent to our man that we were very serious and that picking out 1 or 2 items at a time was too slow. We found a color and he sent a minion to get us a stack of ten. When we looked at the velvet scarves he beconed us upstairs to his private stock room where we poured over dozens of designs and colors. When something wasn't available a boy was sent to his other shop to fetch it. When we were finished there was a serious pile of scarves and pashminas on the large table in his shop. He sent his boy off for the last items and he offered us tea, which is the custom of the Turkish people everywhere.

We did some number crunching using a calculator plus my iphone for currency and weight conversions. Then we counted eveything up. Our man started to pull out bags to put the stacks of scarves in but we waved him off. Rossana pulled out her uber duffle bag and rolled it out on the table with a flourish, much to the suprise of the owners. We began loading our goods and counting up money. I had stupidly left a wad of Turskish Lira in my shirt pocket that morning but we managed to scrape up what me needed and cram everything into the duffle. I noticed that a LOT of small merchants had wireless credit card machines now. Last time I visited we had to get a friend of a friend to run a card. Always a dicey proposition. We stuck with cash though because there would be no extra fees for either party.

Almost all of this was done without any of us being able to speak the others language.

I hefted the duffel onto my shoulder and we set out to get something to eat. Although there were other shops on the street we simply had no more room and we were getting worried about weight. Going over our weight allowance could lead to serious fees.

We grabbed some small souveneers and had to come up with a plan to get back across the Golden Horn and to our Hotel in Taksim. Istanbul is a massive city some 65 miles from side to side and as such has a lot of commuters. Luckily this means they have a very good mass transit system. We found a tram platform and with some pointing and maps were directed to the right tram. It was very crowded but much faster than trying to cross any of the bridges by bus or car. In a short time were over the bridge and somewhere closer to our hotel. We flagged down a taxi who rushed down back steeets to avoid the ever thickening city traffic. We made it back just in time to dump our booty, change into clean clothes and head out for our farewell dinner.

Back home

Long flight from Turkey, miserable flight from JFK. Got some solid sleep and am just starting to look at the pile of crap to do.


I'll post about our last day in Istanbul and our mission in the grand bazaar later. There's a lawn that needs mowin'.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back in Istanbul

We only has a short time in Bursa, the cradle of the Ottoman Empire. One of the cities chief products is silk (in addition to ceramics and fighter jets). We hit the 15th century silk bazaar and got to work. I'd like to tell you that we sat in a small shop in the oldest part of the bazaar, the Han, sipping tea with a old Turkish man wearing a well worn Fez.

Alas, this was not the case. The shop we settled on was fairly modern looking, and our contact was a young woman in Bell Bottoms. (Oh, and the Fez has been illegal in Turkey since 1924). Still she was a good bargainer and we walked away with over 50 silk scarves and wool pashminas. We left the bazaar which exits near the 13th century Grand Mosque just as the afternoon call to prayer began.

"I like the way we get to shop" I said to my wife, smiling.

We did the tourist thing today, visiting Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Both are beautiful buildings. I learned a few new things, but the crowds were a real distraction. We ate at the legendary Pudding Shop where the owner notices me taking picturess of some of the old photos and letters on the wall.

"Where you from?" the older man at ther register asked.


"From America."

"Why you..?" he made the picture taking motion.

"This the the famouse Pudding Shop. I read about it in a book. Magic Bus. All the hippies started out for India and Nepal from here. I've only seen Turkey this trip, but I wanted to eat here in their memory."

He smiled knowingly and reached behind the counter. He handed me some postcards with the Pudding Shop on the front along with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. There were also two stickers touting the 'World Famous' restaurant. He shook my hand warmly. "Good travels". I left very geeked.

We took a cruise on the Bosporus to see some of the many Sultans palaces and other buildings that line this historic seaway.

Later, we crawled through Istanbul trafic to our hotel. The last time we did this we flew across in record time, then we remembered it was May Day, the day of the riots.

Tomorrow is the Topkapi palace and the one BIG chance to buy everything we've been holding back on. And we have to do in in a narrow window of time or we'll get trapped in the same traffic we did today. Right now we're sitting in our room roasting. No AC and no breeze outside the window. We're testing the capacity of our luggage to see how best to pack. Already some clothes have been jettisoned, more will go tomorrow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Little things

A long haul today from Cappadocia to Ankora. We left the ancient silk road and traveled north and west along the "Kings Road", the route Alexander the Great took on his hit world tour. We passed lake Tuz, a massive seasonal lake that is only 2 inches deep and stained red with plankton.

In Ankora we visited the Mausoleum of Mustapha Kemal better known as Attaturk, the founder of the republic. The large marble buildings are inspired by the Hittites and surrounded by a large wooded space. After that, the Anatolean Museum.

Very tired. I think my brain is full.

Here are some observations. Nothing detailed, just things I have noticed during my time here:

  • Turkey has embraced energy efficiency. Every bulb I've seen has been a CFT. Often, the lobby and hallways of our hotels are unlighted until late afternoon.

  • Their selection of candy and junkfood is quite good.

  • Imams are not allowed to wear their clerical robes outside the Mosque. Sounds great right? Go secular state! But wait, Imams are actually civil servants. Tax money actually pays them a salary (though it doesn't pay for Mosques). This blew my mind at first and seems a complete contradiction. But think of it like this, how many civil servants do you know who are fanatical about their job? It makes a bizzare sense.

  • The roads are pretty good here and the drivers are not maniacs. I could feel pretty confident renting a car here and driving it, even in the city.

  • Turks like to keep their vehicles clean. I've seen taxi drivers washing their cars lovingly.

  • I think its forbidden to show people smoking on tv. I saw a movie a few nights ago and they blurred out a characters hand as he smoked a pipe. Wierd.

  • Youtube is blocked in Turkey

  • Most homes use a passive solar water heater. A large tank sits on the roof and feeds water through a dark glass panel then into the house. These tanks are on the roofs of both the poor and the middle class

  • When touring Cappadocia our guide 'Mus' told us that some of "Return of the Jedi" was filmed here. This, I knew, was complete B.S. but I just checked the web anyway. I am not sure how big a geek that makes me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cappadocia at last

Memories and experiences are piling up. I am unable to get all of them detailed here so I'll skip a few. We got to Cappadocia yesterday home of the famous fairy chimneys. This area saw great volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The different layers have different densities. Over the years the softer material has washed away, often with larger dense sections left atop them. It's impressive to say the damn least.

This is a large area that at one time supported a large monastic community who carved several chapels into the living rock. Everywhere you look there a little windows. It's surreal and beautiful.


This morning at 5:30 am we took off for a hot air balloon excursion. I took over 200 pictures, so many that I ran down my camera battery. I'll upload these later but here's one or two.





The little sliver of land you see below is where we tried to land, but wind being a fickle thing we did not. We pulled up at the last second, barely cleared a small hill and quickly landed on an even smaller sliver of land without tipping or catching the balloon on any of the many small trees that dot the landscape..

I cannot describe how awesome this trip was. We visited several scenic overlooks over the course of the day and I took many more pictures, but the experience of seeing this landscape from the air was the best. Of course, we were also subjected to several shopping excursions today. I was less angry with the carpet shop because its a working shop and it was actually very educational. We actually got to see silk cocoons being unwound to make into thread, something I have always wanted to learn about. At last came the sales pitch, but its was a very good one. They laid over every conceivable type of floor cover, from crude kilims to three award winning carpets that simply took our breath away.

Panorama of the sales pitch

In the end we gave serious though to a "dowry carpet" which wasn't even made by the shop but is instead made by women to part of their first homes furnishings. These are fairly rare and of course, pretty pricey. They put one of their best guys on us and I will say that he was good. Sure, he was the first Turk who I had yet seen with a mustache AND goatee like mine, but that didn't sway me at all... We managed to get away without spending a serious chunk of change, but it was the closest I've ever come to buying one of these.

I'd dearly love to hike around this area for a few days, but as always, time is our enemy. We depart for Ankara tomorrow.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

By the Sea...

We rolled into Antalya two days ago. After so much go go go the group gets two whole nights in one place to get some wash done and catch up on sleep (must mornings start at 6am, hell there are times at home I don't go to bed until 3 or 4am).

The city is huge. It wasn't always so though. 12 years ago it was a small town with a charming old city (something rare in a country with so many earthquakes and a national obsession with modernization). Apparently the city has a kind of unspoken segregation. Russian and Eastern European tourists stay in the West part of the city, Everyone else uses the Eastern half. After hearing some horror stories of Russian tourists I am all to happy to let them have half the town.

We visit the old city, which is quaint with winding streets and some nice architecture. I would love to stay here at one of the small hotels. But the quiet days give way to raucus nights with loud bars, fights and prostitutes making it unbearable for anyone hoping to actually sleep at 3am. Too bad.

We visit the Perge museum which contains some amazing artifacts from Turkey's long history including some of the finest statues I've ever seen.



This morning we went to Aspendos, home of the most complete Roman theater in the world and it was truly a sight. Usually the elaborate backdrops are destroyed by time and material scavengers but not here. It's still in use today for operas and other large scale events.

Lots of things here are vast in scope so I took 8 pics and stitched them together.


Rossana backstage

We push on through the Taurus mountains heading inland along the ancient spice and silk trails. We stop at the grave of Rumi, the founder of the Sufi. In two days we'll get a chance to see actual dervishes (as opposed to the faux hotel shows). We shall see.


I took this picture during a brief roadside rest. It seemed to encapsulate three strong elements of Turkey. It's natural beauty, it's drive for progress in the form of the aluminum smelter and its ancient past.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Brain freeze..

There comes a point while visiting a country with vast natural and cultural beauty that your brain gets slightly overloaded. I think we reached that point yesterday.

Pammukale is not much to look at on first inspection. A shabby town in need of many civic repairs. Cheap pensions and the typical tourist stalls line the streets as you drive into town. The bus can barely make it up the narrow, rutted roads. Our hotel was comfortable enough and we turned in after a long day on the road. In the morning we drove up to the ancient city of Heiropolis in a light rain. What one sees there is another thing entirely. This was a spa town from waaaay back. And its not hard to see why. Natural hot springs deliver a mineral broth of calcium carbonate that over thousands of years has created a kind of frozen white waterfall down the side of the mountain. It is amazing to see. Pictures don't really do it much justice.


Especially mine. Hey, it was crappy weather. So take a look at some of these pics on flickr, which are much nicer.


Alas, earthquakes have shifted the natural water flow in the area. In fact, it must get 'a bath' once a week to maintain its form, and already iron is entering the system and staining some of the formations. You cannot swim or walk on the formations except for a small section.

I'd show you a cool pic of me but the net connection here is crappy and won't upload images for some reason. Just imagine it... it's pretty cool.


Hey I got it to work...


Luckily, there is an 'Antique Pool' on site which is quite nice. There you can cavort amongst fallen Roman Columns in steamy goodness amongst fat Russian Oligarchs and rude Germans.

The ruins of the ancient city are extensive, including many stone waterways that shunted the piping hot water throughout this city. There's a small museum build into an ancient bathhouse and a large necropolis outside the walls of the city. All warrant further exploration. Alas, time did not allow. We had to push through the Taurus mountains to get to Antalya. On the list of places I would expend the time and energy to return to Hieropolis is near the top.

Monday, May 04, 2009

double cross...

I'd like to talk at length about our visit to Ephesus, about this sprawling city-state with it's marble streets, it's library, it's colonades and more. But my phone is a clumsy platform for waxing poetic. Do a Flickr search and you'll find some great pics no doubt. We abandoned our group and struck out with an audio tour that let us explore some of the City's nooks and crannies. We also visited the excavation/restoration of
A large house with painted frescos and marble walls that in some ways surpassed Pompii.

It was a great visit. Our next stop was to be "the house of Mary" one of many homes the virgin apparently moved to later in life. We planned to just wait at the bus. But we didn't go to the house of Mary next, oh no. We were quietly diverted to a "leather factory". Shit. This is one of the oldest tourist traps around. You get steered to a friends shop and he gets a cut of any sales. Nice. We had to sit through a "fashion show" of overpriced jackets that would be useless in Ohio and a trip to their showroom. Rossana quickly bugged out and I followed suit. About half the tour waited outside. After almost an hour Rossana bust into the showroom, startling the salesmen, models, the shoppers and our guide put her hands on her hips and loudly asked

"Are we done with this nonsense now? There's at least half this tour that is unhappy, standing in the sun and ready to go."

It got very quiet. Then she left. The buss pulled out less than 5 minutes later.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Stunning

That's the only way to describe the countryside here. Yesterday we visited Galipoli, which was, on the whole, depressing.
I understand it's signfificance in history and to the Aussies personally. But it was still depressing to see the reminders of the folly of war.

Today was Troya or the city of Troy and after that Pergammon, which was quite impressive. This is where the Germans found the then swipped and entire temple, which they took back to Germany (now the
Pergamon museum).

We've stopped in Izmir for the night and will see
Ephasus tomorrow.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Istanbul - Day 3

A more quiet day today. We packed up and stored our luggage at the hotel and made a last stab at Sultanahmet. This included a visit to the tomb of the areas namesake Sultan Ahmet.

At one point we tried to find the spice market but failed miserably. It may sound silly, but I really am proud of my 'Souk Sense' and failing to find it really upset me. We wound up going in circles. Had a great meal and got shortchanged. Frustrated, I wanted to call it quits. But with another check of our guidebook and with a few landmarks we managed to locate the street we wanted. Our reward? No actual spices. But we did find the street my partner Thomas and I visited 7 years ago on my first trip to this city. Shop after shop of silk scarves. We did some pre-haggling and are confident we can get even better prices later of when we are shopping in earnest.

Feeling better we departed the bazaar, made out way back to the hotel and were informed of the riots.


Riots? "Don't go to Taksim today. Very bad" Mehmet said, looking serious.
"Why"

"Is May first, workers day. Lots of protests. Communists, anti-communists, Labor party everybody. Lots of business closed".

This was, of course, exactly where we had to go. After some asking around we located a taxi to take us across the Bosporus so long as we went around the protests. No problem says us.

We drove along the shores of the Bosporus, the ancient city walls to our left, green parks with scored of people fishing and picnicing on the right. Our speed was absurd as it is in all foreign countries, but less alarming than Egypt. Here, drivers generally stay in one lane. The new hotelo, the Dedemon is large and mdern and we dislike it. No charm, no coziness. The pretentious concierge told us that if we could wait, the restaurant would be open in half and hour. Bah! We were hungry. So it was off down the street to the Bambi Cafe. Our sandwiches were a kind of gyro panini with french fried in them. Awesome, and cheap to boot.

I've been unable to find a three to two prong adaptor for my netbook so I'll likely be posting from my iphone for a bit. I used skype for iphone and made a call to my brother in the US and it worked fairly well given the crappy signal in our hotel room.

We met our tour guide Mustapha, or "Mus" as he wants to be called. Not as charming as our German guide. Mixed group of Americans, Canadians and lots of Aussies. Oddly, the Americans are the most foreign sounding of our group with several asians and a woman who may be cuban.

We'll be covering 2,200 miles in total this trip. And it begins tomorrow at 6am. Blogger acting a bit weird and not uploading pics. Might be our net connection. But rest assured I'm snapping lots of pics.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Istanbul - Day 2

Up bright and early. Lots to see. After breakfast of yogurt, apples, cheese, bread and tea we head off to the Basilica Cistern. This amazing structure was built to supply water to the palaces and was lost for quite a while. It is eerie and beautiful, dimly lit with amber light. Fish still live in the clear water. In one corner, you can still see the head of Medusa, a piece of stone taken from a ruined temple, used as a base for a support pillar.

Note: This isn't my picture


We then hit the bazaar again, this time I found the book dealers street. Awesome. I'll be back there soon. Oddly, books are the only thing that aren't haggled over, and they can be pricy.Taking a few twists we found a street where metal workers turned out some amazing antique reproductions. I even perused a few flintlocks. Sooo tempting. But we plan on holding off on major buying until the end of the trip. Other wise we'd be hauling all our swag around for two weeks. But still... soo shiny...



Back to the Tulip for a nap. Walking this much takes it out of you. Dinner at a rooftop restaurant with an amazing view of the Haiga Sophia and the Blue Mosque. We ate as the sun sank slowly in the West and the Muezzin called the faithful to prayer.



Istanbul is quite the Metropolitan place. It is the meeting of East and West. However I did not expect "West" to mean the American West. As we walked through the park that sits atop the ancient Hippodrome today we saw a group of Native Americans performing a tribal/new age dance/concert. Really, this was THE last thing I ever expected to see in the heart of Turkey. It was a bit surreal.



After dinner I chatted with Mehmet, the young hotel manager and his friend. We showed pictures of our respective homes. Mehmets friend is Kurdish (an oppresed minority in Turkey) and his fathers home is also underground though a bit more rugged. The surrounding mountainside however is breathtaking. A polish traveller joined us and were learned of Turkeys great sporting tradition of male oil wrestling. No, it's not what you think. Look it up.

Tomorrow we move across the Bosphorus to our new hotel and will meet up with our fellow travellers in the evening. Not sure what we'll get up to in the day. This city, for all its size, is oddly relaxing. It is clean and actually smells very nice. (The Old City areas in Morroco can best be descibed as smelling "Biblical"). Here you can smell the sea, fresh bread, roasting meat and flowers in the park.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arrival

HAVE ARRIVED SAFE IN ISTANBUL STOP
LIVING IN 8 X 9 HOSTEL ROOM BEHIND HAIGA SOFIA STOP
TOMORROW BEGINS ADVENTURE STOP

--------------

This was one of the more low stress trips I have taken of late. Sure, it rained on the way to the airport, then I got a call AND and an email telling me peoples websites were acting up.

Care level = Zero. It would be dealt with later.


No lines anywhere. Flight to new York is smooth. Security there quick as well. In flight there are two seats free in our aisle. Passable food and and actually trusted us with metal eating utensils. Each seat had its own personal entertainment center. Nice touch. No real sleep, it's still a plane trip and a long one at that.

On arrival a tout tried to get us to take a bus to Sultanammet. "Only 60 Turkish Lira!" (about $38) "Mush faster!"

Really? The metro and tram system took us about an hour and cost us $3 total. Nice. Outer Instanbul is much like any other city. Modern, and with many concrete buildings. Similar to Cairo but more finished looking and no farms interspersed between buildings. But once you arrive in Sultanammet you are dumped at a lovely park right between the Blue Mosque and Haiha Sophia. Using my keen "Souk Sense" I tracked down our minescule hotstel and we checked in. At this point "resting me feet" became "passed out" for several hours.

We recovered enough to get out and find a few sights. At a small park I was befriended by this fellow who lumped up on my lap and proceeded to love me with great vigor. Rossana gave him some cheese which made him quite happy. Meanwhile my own cats treat me like I beat them with a rubber hose. I tell ya I don't get no respect...


We had dinner at a small restaurant nearby where our waiter asked if we were Americans. We took a chance and said 'Yes'.

"Do you like your new president?" he asked.

"Yes, very much."

"We do too. He was here three weeks ago. I go to see him and everyone shouting Obama! Obama! I could not get close enough. So many people."

That felt good. A few years ago in Egypt I had an awkward discussion with a friendly merchant while awaiting delivery of some goods. Today I felt quite comfortable being an American abroad. Of course, the Turkish people are genuinely very friendly. After diner we strolled to the lit Blue Mosque.


Tomorrow we start exploring more on our own.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Gear,

There was a time when all a man needed to travel the exotic East was a compass, a canteen of water and 4000 Sherpa. So what am I taking?

  1. iPhone - Not for calls or email. I have two Turkish translation programs. Also good for currency exchange.

  2. Acer One Netbook - I'll post to the blog when wifi is available. Also a journal and backup for photos.

  3. Canon Digital camera - It's a bit beaten up but it takes some nice pics.

  4. Travel Journal - I've kept one for each trip. Never crashes. Good for notes, drawings etc.

  5. Messenger bag - Holds lots of stuff including maps, book, passport, led light, journal, energy bar, hand sanitizer, camera, leatherman tool, business cards, one tea bag, pens and compass.

  6. Money belts and pouches - To get all my money you will have to strip me naked and put on rubber gloves.

  7. Tilley Hat - Best hat ever.

Oklahoma = Fun

I almost forgot that I shot this short bit of video while we hunkered down during the great dust storm that was the Norman Oklahoma show. We were assaulted by this piece of trash for literally 10 minutes. Then the wind kicked up again and blew it, and a small child, to god only knows where.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Down to the wire.

We leave soon for Turkey. I am desperately working to get two clients websites moved to new hosting. This has not been easy since many of the tech support people are complete idiots. I don't use terms like this lightly. They have cocked this process up seven ways to sunday.

Trying to get stuff done around the house. I finally got the chance to pack (Rossana, of course, was ready weeks ago and has merely been tweaking her bag). Downloaded a Turkish translation app for the iphone. I won't be using it for email or calls over there waaaaaay too expensive unless its an emergency. I will be taking my Netbook with me and blogging whenever I find a few drops of wifi.

For a short preview of what we might see in Turkey I present this tourism ad. I'm not sure about the giant horsemen or the flying mermaids. Looks dangerous.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

There and back again...

It was back to sunny Florida for the FX-International show last weekend. I went solo and I'm not sure it was worth the effort. Yes, there were some cool media guests there. Yes, I did get to sit in on Leonard Nimoy's appearance which WAS very cool. But the work to do it...

The biggest pain was that the convention center closed its loading dock at 7pm. I arrived at 6:50. EVERYTHING had to be loaded onto my new dolly. Gridwall, stock, mannequins the whole enchilada HAD to be in the doors in 10 minutes. It was the fastest load-in in history. I managed to get it in the door and to our spot just in time. The whole load was so heavy I got rope burns on my hands and was so winded I was nausious. Nothing like 8 hours of sitting in a car and then running a 600 meter dash.

Despite being a well established show, the crowds and sales were way down for everyone. We made money at least, which is more than I can say for some of my fellow merchants. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come.

Turkey is a little over a week away...