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Older rants
June 1, 2020   Trip to the Grand Canyon (last year),
Code Talker
Mar 21, 2020   The World Famous San Diego ComicFest
and the testament to dorkness that is my cubicle
and my sad, sad little doodles
Mar 8, 2020   A return to Potterland,
Meg & Dia's Christmas album, December Darling,
some other random stuff
Feb 21, 2020   Agorafabulous!,
Emeli's amazing creations
Nov 27, 2019   David Savakerrva Volume 1
The cubicle of nerdishness
Oct 28, 2019   Art Matters, Neil Gaiman
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Eric Idle
Alternate Routes, Tim Powers
Disneyland - Galaxy's Edge
Oct 4, 2019   Meg & Dia, HappySad tour San Diego 09/18/19
September 21. 2019   David Bowie - Scary Monsters,
More Adventures in Leasing,
More cubicle fun,
A new doodle
September 10. 2019   The Cranberries - In The End,
The Cranberries - Something Else,
Icicle Works, Icicle Works (vinyl),
Dia Frampton, Red,
Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton John,
The Lemonheads, The Lemonheads,
Green Day, Insomniac ,
and
Flight of the Conchords, Flight of the Conchords Live in London
August 28, 2019   Heir of Ra (Maciek Sasinowski,
The Catalyst Series (JK Franks): Downward Cycle, Kingdom of Sorrow, Ghost Country
May 11, 2019   Goodbye, little friend
Nov 30, 2018   Fire of Our Fathers,
a Science Fiction Book Club rant
Nov 24, 2018   The Dinosaur Lords,
Dragon Teeth
Nov 20, 2018   My cubicle revisited, really-old ComicCon stuff, Emeli's Art, More Disney Adventures, The Zoo and Safari Park
September 9, 2018   Perimeter - an eBook thriller
September 3, 2018   Take Back the Sky Starcraft Evolution
August 11, 2018   Idaho Dunes Awesome soda Ethanol-free gas an awesome Bald Guy card Our rough dig Harry Potter Interlude story
July 21, 2018   The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers Book 1)
June 24, 2018   Jake, Lucid Dreamer
June 13, 2018   Troll-stalking
May 23, 2018   Another badbartopia email spoofer, A sunny-day Disney adventure, Raymond E Feist book signing
May 15, 2018   A rainy-day Disneyland trip The Bassoon King
Apr 28, 2018   Down and Out in Purgatory
Apr 13, 2018   Operation Hail Storm
Mar 4, 2018   American Exodus
Jan 22, 2018   Christmas, Didn't Get Frazzled, The Sea People, The Rooster Bar, Last Burial Night, Doctor Who and the Krikkit Men
Dec 15, 2017   Mistrial, City of Death and Disneyland
Nov 14, 2017   Grace Vanderwaal - Just the Beginning
Nov 11, 2017   Tim Powers Signing at Mysterious Galaxy for Down and Out in Purgatory
November 4, 2017   Return to Disneyland, Halloween at the office, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Long Cosmos Maximus One year After War Dogs, Killing Titan Daddy, Stop Talking
October 29, 2017   Bruce Campbell Signing, Hail to the Chin, Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
October 20, 2017   Meg & Dia, Imagine Dragons in concert, 2 Years 8 months and 28 Nights
October 17, 2017   All Apologies
October 16, 2017   Thrawn
Septempber 7, 2017   The Rage of Dragons, The Lincoln Myth
August 10, 2017   The Molly Ringwalds, Dia Frampton Musical awesomeness, Beauty and the Feast
July 28, 2017   The IT Sweatshop revisited, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, American Gods and The Magicians, Rogue One, Camino Island
July 24, 2017   CRV glovebox difficulties, San Diego Comic Con rant
July 11, 2017   Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum, Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1, Aftermath, Empire's End, If Chin's Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
June 30, 2017   Eastwood: No Direction Home book 2
June 23, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 4/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes, my new record, record player, and Emeli's site is live!
Jun 14, 2017   A noteworthy eBook mention before I return to my vacation ranting - No Direction Home
June 9, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 3/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes...almost. More pictures of spooky old houses, trees, rocks, and other things that nobody cares about! Plus, Goonies stuff
June 2, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 2/4) - The PCH family vacation tale continues... And more pictures of trees and other things that nobody cares about!
May 31, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 1/4) - Way more detail than anyone wants about our vacation up the coast of California and Oregon. And lots of pictures of trees!
Apr 26, 2017   Resurrection America, Pizza Studio art, AmandaLynn, Emeli art, and Disney art, and Gifted
Apr 14, 2017   My San Fransisco OSI PI adventure & "Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be"
Apr 12, 2017   Neil Gaiman speaks, Norse Mythology, American Gods comic adaptation, The Magicians TV series, and Dirk Gently on TV
Feb 2, 2017   A trip to the ever-less-magical land of Disney, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a brief mention of The Magicians.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
vs.
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Ikariam
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
and
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Flakes
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Marvels
Ruins
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Interworld
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book 6...by Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008   Slacking...as usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
subpoenaed!
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

A Long Overdue Grand Canyon report

Well, it's been over 2 months since I last mentioned anything here (two months of working from home with nowhere to go and nothing to do, thanks to the good ol' CoronoaVirus that's got us all afraid to leave the house). So there's no time like the present to bore everyone's pants off...



"Grand" really doesn't do it justice...

It was a little over a year ago that the wife and I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time. We drove the longer, and I assumed more picturesque, route from San Diego through the middle of Arizona up through Flagstaff to Williams, Arizona. It was a very long drive and there was surprisingly diverse terrain along the way. We saw seas of mammoth sand dunes, lightly forested rolling hills, tall majestic pines right up to the road blocking everything behind, grass-covered rolling hills, and cactus-covered hills as we drove along this long, meandering path to Williams. I wish I'd taken more time to stop and take photos, but it was a long drive and stopping for photos wasn't a priority at the time.

We stayed in a Best Western Hotel in Williams - the best reviewed hotel in the area for the lowest cost (I think I've mentioned that I'm a cheapskate, right?). The room was spacious and very clean. We were near an exit, so we heard a little more noise from guests coming and going than we might have elsewhere in the hotel, but it wasn't too bad. The hotel's decor was also very interesting - native American statues were in glass-cased niches along the hallways, the lobby had a display case of artifacts, there were near life-sized statues dancing in warpaint outside the hotel's Kachina Lounge restaurant, and other native American artwork throughout the hotel. It was very cool to just walk around and check out. We also ate in the hotel's restaurant both nights we were there. Affordable (for a hotel restaurant) and tasty food. But the best part of the restaurant meal was the live music, performed both nights by Omar Mondragon de Leon, a veteran musician who played covers of Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and other artists who have slipped my mind after all this time. The Simon and Garfunkel covers were my favorites. He was also very friendly and we talked a little in the mostly-empty restaurant between songs.

We were planning to drive up to the canyon, but when we were told about the Grand Canyon Railway ride up to the rim and back, we decided to shell out a little more dough for that (it's not free to drive up to the Grand Canyon, either, though I don't remember how much that option cost). I'm really glad we took the train, though I think we might drive next time so we have more options for accessing areas further along the canyon rim. It was a lot area to cover on foot (and that's without taking any of the trails into the canyon itself). So, what was so great about the riding the Grand Canyon Railway? Several things.

  • It was a train ride. And those are always kind of fun.
  • The terrain varied almost as much on our way up to the rim of the Grand Canyon as it did on our drive through Arizona to get there. And there were a few wild animals here and there to gawk at as the train made its way up the hill.
  • There was live entertainment on the train. Old west serenades galore. And on the way back down, we were boarded by bandits - one was a wee man - who were very entertaining.
  • And possibly best of all (and this didn't even require a ticket) there was an old west show outside the train station with cowboys and bandits and comedy and little people. Great stuff.

So after a pretty long ride, we reached the train station just below the rim of the Grand Canyon. We walked up the hill and looked around at all the shops and then made out way to the rim. And man, it's ginormous. And so deep. I'd heard tales of mountain goats and waterfalls in the canyon, but apparently they are all further east, so we didn't see much wildlife or wildwater. Still, 'twas a Majestic sight. It was also really chilly at the end of March, even though it was sunny with a clear blue sky. There was actually even still a good pile of snow in our hotel's parking lot, so it wasn't just chilly at the top.

In the gift shops, we picked up a really interesting handmade necklace for the wife with a red gem that seemed to glow when it caught the light, and a book for me (see below). We also ate in one of the less interesting, though still very crowded, fast food spots on the rim. The nicer restaurants were super-expensive. And super-busy. After walking up and down the rim (the small area near the train station) and exploring everything there was to see, we headed back down to Williams on the train. Along the way, our train was boarded by bandits (see the reasons for riding the Grand Canyon Railway as itemized above).

We headed home the next morning. Part of out post-Grand Canyon adventures the day prior had taken place on Route 66 (the part that passed through Williams). There wasn't a lot to see in Williams, but it piqued my interest enough that we decided to drive down Route 66 as far as we could to see what there was to see. And it was a weird, interesting, and colorful drive through so many small towns that celebrated its history as part of the Route 66 legacy. I was surprised to discover that I took far more photos of the Route 66 weirdness than I did the Grand Canyon itself.

When we reached the end of Route 66, we took a long circuitous drive southward instead of doing the smart thing and heading for the 10 freeway. So we drove past Lake Havasu, another place I''d never been. What a strange sight in the middle of the desert. The lake was so very blue and pretty. And the river communities that sprung up all long the river feeding the lake were an interesting sight as well.

The rest of the drive wasn't really worth detailing. There was a lot of desert that all looked the same, and we drove through a lot of small towns. And eventually we hit Interstate 8 (that had taken us into Arizona) and took it back into San Diego.

And speaking of the book I bought in the Grand Canyon gift shop...


Code Talker - Chester Nez & Judith Schiess Avila

There were a bunch of books about the Navajo code talkers of World War II in the various shops of the Grand Canyon. But most were written about the code talkers by somebody else. Only one that I found, Code Talker, was written by one of the actual code talkers (or at least narrated to a writer, Judith Schiess Avila, by an actual code talker), Chester Nez. So I bought the only copy I could find in any of the shops (a paperback with a ripped back cover, unfortunately) and started reading it on the train ride back to Williams. I finished it a few weeks later, after finishing the other book I'd been reading before finding Code Talker (and possibly one or two other books).

Chester (as the former code talker came to be known later - not his given Navajo name) begins his story with tales of his childhood, including the unpleasant things that happened to him and his family (in sad detail) at the hands of the conquering pale faces. The Navajo people didn't have a pampered life in any way, but they were content with their rough existence.

One of the early difficult events in Chester's life was his experiences when he was sent to an Indian school. It was a cultural whitewashing that, thankfully, wasn't very effective. Chester did learn English, though, which proved helpful in the Marine. It was interesting that the primary tormetors were older Navajo children and matrons from other tribes, not the great white devil. Here's an excerpt from Code Talker that shows how bad it was.

At home I had gone everywhere and spoken to everyone. It seemed odd that at school, certain places were forbidden and speaking to the girls was prohibited.

We boys climbed up to our dormitory room on the second floor of the boys' residence hall. I looked down the long row of beds, all arranged side by side. I had never slept in a "white person's" bed, except at school in Tohatchi. Windows covered one entire wall of the dormitory. It was a long drop to the ground from where I stood.

That first night, the boy in the bed next to me woke in the middle of the night screaming.

"What's wrong?" I asked him in Navajo.

The little boy shivered, although the night was warm. "Terrible dreams," he told me. "Dead men. Indian warriors. And white men, too."

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

As bad as the boarding school experience was for Chester, there was an even worse childhood experience in the book: The Great Livestock Massacre of the mid-1930s. It was a terrible experience that affected a lot of Navajo in a very negative way and will make your blood boil at the blatant idiocy perpetrated by government.

The summer day at Chichiltah sizzled with heat and expectations. Father and Grandma counted the days and months of summer, making sure they knew when my school resumed in the fall. Hot days filled with freedom raced by, and that back-to-school date would come too soon. But right now was free again of teachers, of that heavy feeling that I was about to answer a question incorrectly, and of volatile matrons.

I rattled the fence I'd just mended to test its strength. Good. It formed part of the family sheep corral. I stretched and sipped from a canvas jug of water.

The far-off rumble of heavy equipment, a sound not often heard in Navajo country, gave me warning. If I had known what was coming, my heart wouldn't have pounded with eager anticipation. But the sound, and then the sight of a flatbed truck carrying a huge bulldozer, was uncommon - and intriguing. l wiped the sweat from my eyes. What could it be for?

Then, in my thirteenth or fourteenth summer, I didn't connect the heavy equipment with any kind of problem. I raced down to the dirt road to watch. Navajo men dismounted from the flatbed. They worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, government employees, they said. With a good deal of sarcasm, reservation Navajos called government workers "Washing-done."

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

There's a historical perspective of The Great Livestock Massacre in the book, too. It was probably provided by Judith Avila, not Chester. But Chester may have been aware of the government's intentions and the the politics behind the terrible decisions that were made. I'm not real sure if this was part of his narrated story. Here's most of the historical perspective from the book.

A historical perspective on the politics of this disaster doesn't soften the blow still felt by the families who were deprived of their livelihood. The program may have been well intentioned, but like many other political decisions, the results proved disastrous.

It was during the Great Depression, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1932, was president. His legislative agenda, the "New Deal," initiated many programs and public-works projects designed to help employ the needy. The disastrous livestock reduction might never have occurred if four things had not come together.

First, reservation and Checkerboard land, aggressively grazed by livestock, was less productive than it had been. Sheep were the primary animals raised, and they graze close to the ground, often killing the roots of plants. The dust bowl in the southwestern Great Plains had created a more serious problem than the problems on Navajo land, but still, overgrazing was then under the microscope of public awareness. As John Collier wrote: "The Navajo reservation is being washed into the Boulder Dam reservoir." This government project, begun in 1931, is now known as the famous Hoover Dam.

Second, the overgrazing coincided with a federal New Deal push for a huge park to be created on Navajo land. The proposal, first made in 1931 by Roger Toll, died, but was renewed when Roosevelt was elected. People argued that the park would create jobs, but it would also absorb land needed for grazing Navajo livestock. The National Park Service

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

Those are the last of Chester's childhood stories that I'm going to subject you to. They weren't all bummer childhood stories, but the bummers hit me hardest so I shared those. Chester also shared what was great about being a kid who could be one with nature on the reservation.

Chester talked about the development of the code with the other Navajo Marines. It's amazing how sharp these Navajo soldiers were - they memorized huge collections of data and had to pull it all from memory in real time as they sent and received messages. And there wasn't a lot of education between them - just an oral tradition of memorizing their people's history (since Navajo isn't a written language, everything important had to be committed to memory).

Although Navajo is spoken less and less frequently today, the boarding schools in the 1920s and '30s had - happily - failed in their efforts to erase the language from the minds of their students. We men in that locked room were articulate in both Navajo and English.

Navajo bears little resemblance to English. When a Navajo asks whether you speak his language, he uses these words: "Do you hear Navajo?" Words must be heard before they can be spoken. Many of the sounds in Navajo are impossible for the unpracticed ear to distinguish. The inability of most people to hear Navajo was a solid plus when it came to devising our code.

The Navajo language is very exact, with fine shades of meaning that are missing in English. Our language illustrates the Dine's relationship to nature. Everything that happens in our lives happens in relationship to the world that surrounds us. The language reflects the importance of how we and various objects interact. For example, the form of the verb "to dump something" that is used depends upon the object that is dumped and the container that is being utilized. If one dumps coal from a bucket, for instance, the verb is different from the verb used to describe dumping water from a pail. And the verb again differs when one dumps something from a sack. Again, in Navajo you do not simply "pick up" an object. Depending on what the object is - its consistency and its shape - the verb used for "to pick up" will differ. Thus the verb for picking up a handful of squishy mud differs from the verb used for picking up a stick.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

And a little more on how the code actually works, just to show you how not-easy being a code talker was.

We finished the development phase. We felt sure we had a code that even a native Navajo speaker would not be able to crack. Our classroom was unlocked, and we code talkers went out on maneuvers to test the code and to practice, practice, practice. When we saw the letter C we had to think moasi. In battle, there would be no time to think: C, cat. That's moasi. It had to be automatic, without a conscious thought process. We were to be living code machines.

Several Marine generals came to the room to listen as the code was refined. As part of the training, those men arranged to put some of us on shipboard - both submarines and surface ships - and some on land. We often spread out like this for field maneuvers aimed at practicing the code. Someone not involved with our group heard the messages, and all along the California coast troops suddenly went 'to "condition black" (a state of readiness where weapons were prepared for immediate use) thinking that the Japanese had invaded the United States mainland at San Diego. A couple of the code talkers were taken to North Island Headquarters, where they quelled the panic. They listened to the tapes of "Japanese" made by the officers and identified the language as Navajo. One of the colonels involved with the program told his superiors that the strange language was their own Navajo Marines speaking a code that they had developed. He promised to give headquarters advance warning of Future field maneuvers involving the code so that the Navajo words wouldn't be mistaken for Japanese and wouldn't cause panic.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

There's also an appendix at the back of the book that has all the Navajo "words" (as I mentioned, Navajo isn't a written language, so they're really just "sounds") to English letter translations. Here's the first page with the first few letters of the English alphabet in the Appendix.

This is the final form of the dictionary, revised June 15, 1945, per the Department of the Navy. The Navajo words are spelled phonetically. Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.

NOTE: The thirty-two alternate phonetic Navajo spellings listed below are from Our Fathers, Our Grandfathers, Our Heroes, Circle of Light Navajo Educational Project, pp. 38-55.
I corrected some problems with the month names.
Numerals were transmitted in Navajo, using the Navajo word for each numeral.
LETTERNAVAJO WORDLITERAL TRANSLATION
AWOL-LA-CHEEANT
ABE-LA-SANAAPPLE
ATSE-NILLAXE
BA-HASH-CHIDBADGER
BSHUSHBEAR
BTOISH-JEHBARREL

There are a ton of detailed battle stories from Chester's World War II deployment to the Pacific. This is an excerpt of Chester's time on Guam.

After my wound, the wounding of our squadron leader, our victory over the Japanese Banzai officer, and the seizure of the Orote Peninsula airfield, the Marines assaulted Sugar Ridge. It was July 30, 1944. The five-hundred-foot-tall, perpendicular ridge offered a clear view of the portion of beach midway down the western shore of Guam, right where we Marines had landed. It also housed multiple Japanese pillboxes, and other fortifications.

Marines made their way up that ridge, scrabbling with boots and fingernails to gain an inch at a time. By midday on the thirtieth, an Allied command post was established, about halfway up. The next day, July 31, 1944, Sugar Ridge fell to the Americans.

After taking the ridge, the Marines were able to move in close to Agana, Guam's largest city. We bombarded Agana with artillery and mortar fire, destroying many of the buildings there. When we moved in for the final conquest, we discovered that it had been abandoned.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

Here's an excerpt with another of Chester's battle memories on the Palau islands.

In mid-October 1944 - a month after our initial landing - III Amphibious Corps commander General Roy Geiger declared Peleliu secured. Although sections of Peleliu were ours, his declaration was premature. Many of the enemy still fought from the island's mountains and ridges, secure in their hidden caves and bunkers. Also, the Palau Islands housed Japan's administrative headquarters for its Pacific island holdings. And Japan's Lieutenant General Sadae Inoue, managing the Peleliu defense from another of the Palau Islands, was not about to let the men under Colonel Nakagawa give up the fight on Peleliu.

I woke up in a bomb crater blasted into the flintlike coral. No munitions noise. I'd arrived back on Peleliu, after helping out on Angaur, three weeks - or was it only a few days? - before. One day had become interchangeable with the next. I sat for a moment, eyes closed, knees pulled up to my chest.

What island would be next?

I nudged Francis. "Time for breakfast."

Francis groaned, then opened one eye.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

Chester also shares some stories about other Navajo men during the war and the precautions the military took to keep the code talkers safe.

Despite the United States' insistence upon secrecy, the Japanese somehow learned that the unbreakable code being utilized by the Americans had something to do with the Navajo language. No one knows exactly how or when this information was obtained, but it has been hypothesized that a Japanese translator with the surname Goon first associated the Navajo language with the unbreakable code while participating in the interrogation of Joe Kieyoomia. Kieyoomia, a Navajo man who had survived the Bataan Death March, was questioned by Goon and tortured by his Japanese captors in their attempt to force him to crack the code. His ribs and wrist were broken, and he was made to stand naked in freezing weather until his bare feet froze to the ground, leaving blood and flesh on the ice when they pulled him back inside. It was no use. He could not and would not help the enemy. But the constant attempts the Japanese made to force him to crack the code meant that, at least, they kept him alive. Kieyoomia survived the war, still knowing nothing about the Navajo code.

After the war, I read a newspaper article about a Navajo man who'd been stationed in Alaska. He heard his Navajo language over the radio as he was flying in a military craft. He told his buddies, "These are my people talking." But he was never able to make any sense of what was being said in the Navajo code.

Several Navajo prisoners reported, postwar, that the Japanese had tried to get them to figure out the Marine's code. None of these captives were code talkers, and none shed any light on the complicated secret language.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

After World War II ended, Chester's military service wasn't complete. He was called back up when the Korean War broke out. His service during the Korean War didn't involve any code talking and was much less PTSD-inducing.

We were assigned work detail while waiting for transport to our official assignments. I was placed with the other communications men, although I don't believe my superiors knew about my code talker service. The other communications personnel and I were issued M1 30-30 rifles and new uniforms.

"I haven't told my family yet," I confided to one of the other Navajo men.

"Me either," the man replied. "Couldn't face it."

"We'd better write to them before we hit Korea. Who knows what it will be like over there."

I wrote to my family, knowing that Father would resume the ritual he'd begun when I fought in the South Pacific. He prayed three times per day - morning, noon, and evening - for my safe return.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

Chester was proud to have been a Marine and, despite the government's many abuses of the Navajo people throughout his life and before he was born, he was proud to be an American. He was also very affected by the events he lived through in World War II. His PTSD (before that diagnosis was a thing) was pretty bad. But he didn't go to a military shrink to receive treatment. He got help the Navajao way - from a medicine man.

Major Howard Connor, a 5th Marine Division signal officer, had half-a-dozen code talkers with him when he invaded Iwo jima. He said that without them, the Americans wouldn't have taken the island. Iwo Jima was the only battle in the Pacific war where Allied casualties outnumbered Japanese casualties.

On World War II Pacific island battlegrounds, Marines gained the reputation that defines them today - fiercely loyal, fiercely determined, and fiercely lethal combatants. Living examples of their motto semper fi (shortened from semper fidelis or "always faithful"), Marines looked out for each other. And we code talkers, with our secret mission, shared an additional, immeasurable bond with one another. We watched out for our fellow Marines and for our fellow code talkers.

Code talkers took part in every Marine battle in the Pacific War. Each of the six Marine divisions had code talkers. We talkers trusted each other without question, and our fellow Marines sought us out for special assignments.

click here to show the full quoted excerpt

As with any good biographical book, the middle of Code Talker is full of photos. Here are a few of them.



I was also planning to talk about the last couple of trips to Disneyland we took in February and March, our recent trip to the Salton Sea, and some other stuff, but this has already been more blathering than anyone wants to read in one sitting. So next time.


Boomshanka!




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Buckle up...extreme nerdishness ahead!

San Diego Comicfest

I went to the San Diego ComicFest on Saturday (March 7) for the first time. It has apparently been around for 8 years, but I don't think I'd ever heard of it before this year. The only reason I knew it existed this year is because I received an email from the new incarnation of the Mysterious Galaxy book store - which is now located in Mission Valley and will only ever see my shadow darken its doorway if they have a very special guest author stop by (I'm sure it's still a lovely store - it's just sooo far away now).

It cost me $25 to to gain entrance to the ComicFest exhibit hall (a smallish room with maybe 60 vendors on folding tables). None of the vendors had anything very current. The vendors all had a real swap meet feel. Loads of old books, comics, magazines, video, toys, lunch pails, cereal boxes, etc.

I didn't even get a lanyard and a cool pass for my $25 (as one does with the ComicCon). Just a cruddy wrist band.

Mysterious Galaxy did have a booth with at least three authors crammed behind a small folding table piled with paperbacks. Greg Bear was the only one of the three authors that I've read (I mentioned the final book in the War Dogs trilogy a while ago, which I was surprised to discover is his most recent novel). I should have brought my War Dogs novels with me for him to sign...but I didn't. Or maybe my tattered, but well-loved, Infinity Concerto paperback.

Another missed opportunity.

The real reason I went to the ComicFest wasn't to see Greg Bear, whose books I have admittedly enjoyed, because he wasn't signing a new book and I feel weird about asking an author to sign a bunch of old books without buying anything new from him.

The real reason was to see Mike Kunkel, the creator of the great Herobear and the Kid comics, The Land of SokMunster book my kids loved as young 'uns, and many other child-friendly delights (like a super-cool Shazaam). I came across Mike several times at the San Diego ComicCon, both in a booth for his company, The Astonish Factory, and just hanging out at the Con (before I swore off the overcrowded nightmare that the San Diego ComicCon has become for good). I've always thought Mike seemed like a super-cool guy, so I was looking forward to seeing him and buying anything he was selling.

A secondary objective was to locate copies of American Gods: The Moment of the Storm issues #8 and #9, which I have been unable to find ant any of the local comics shops I've been to.

Alas, 'twas not to be. Mike didn't come to the ComicFest, despite being on the talent roster of the ComicFest web site. It took over an hour to ascertain this information (not because there was that much to see - I was just convinced he was sitting behind one of the 100 or so tables arranged haphazardly around the hotel and I was somehow missing him).

After circling a few times, I finally looked him up on the ComicFest web site, found his assigned table location (which meant nothing to me) and asked one of the volunteers manning the Exhibit hall where the location actually was. Three stops later, we found someone who knew what the location code meant, but this person also knew that Mike hadn't arrived to claim his space and it had been given to someone else.

So that was disappointing, too.

Nor was there any sign of American Gods: The Moment of the Storm. All the comics for sale were either much older than this 2019 book or were in the superhero genre (Marvel/DC). There were a few interesting artists that I might have been inspired to open my wallet to, had I not been so bummed about missing out on my primary con-jectives, but I didn't bother.

I had to find something to make the entire experience somewhat worthwhile, though, so I bought Emeli some patches I found (her latest thing is acquiring iron-on patches to put on a denim jacket). Only two vendors were selling patches - one was the RatFink table, something you'd have to be pretty ancient to remember (sadly, I remember RatFink).

Emeli had no interest in RatFink (because she had no idea what RatFink was). I did find some random patches being sold by another of the more garage sale-ish vendors, so I showed a bunch to her and she chose three that she liked: a diamond, an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom patch that looks like something that would be worn by a Disney cast member, and a Space Explorer girly-astronaut patch (the word "Space" looks more like "SpRce" on the patch, which I didn't noticed until Emeli pointed it out to me at home. Oops). Probably not a purchase worthy of the admission price, but at least it was something.

I also took some pictures of a few of the people who were dressed up - I saw a really impressive Mandalorian costume when I arrived, but he must have been on the way out (I arrived in the early afternoon) because I didn't see him again by the time I'd started snapping photos. There were a few Avengers that were easily recognized, a whole lot of random costumes I didn't recognize, and even a giant dude dressed as Thor. I wish I'd worn my Fat Thor costume, that would have been a funny contrast to giant Thor.

I think the most noteworthy aspect of this "convention" was the venue - I parked in the back (the first open space I found) and felt like I'd wandered on to one of the sets for The Walking Dead. It was a Sheraton hotel, but was very decrepit and creepy. It wasn't quite as bad inside the hotel, but still...not impressive. But I guess if it had been held in an impressive hotel, they probably wouldn't have been as keen about the hundreds of overweight, balding (male and female), smelly nerds that I saw wandering around. One of whom was me.

There's one last thing that I found noteworthy enough to take a picture of - these metal handmade sculptures that were for sale in the exhibit hall. They were pricey, so I didn't get one, but very cool. Star Trek, Star Wars, Disney characters, Samurai, dudes on motorcycles...they had it all.

So that's about all I have to say about the ComicFest. It was my first visit, and will likely be my last visit.

The Cubicle of Extreme geekishness, relocated

I've updated the comics on the wall of my new cubicle a couple of times since November. That's right, it's a fancy new cubicle...which is, admittedly, pretty much the same as the old cubicle. The only real difference is that I have a better view now - I'm not on the ground floor anymore, so I can now see much more of the parking lot outside (I didn't say it was a view of anything good, I just meant that the visibility of the great outdoors was more prevalent from the new digs). It's also making my fat old butt walk up and down stairs throughout the day, so that's probably a good thing.

I've added a few toys and rearranged some things, but it's pretty much the same mess as the old cubicle.

Here are the most recent comic sets I've had on my cubicle wall:

Marvels
I had Alex Ross's Marvels series from 1994 on the wall a couple of months ago. The covers and interior art of these books is what sets them apart from just about any other comic book series, especially a vast, vast majority of those published by Marvel (or DC). If Norman Rockwell had painted sequential art and done a superhero book, this is the book he might have created. The period of the art is very Norman Rockwell-esque, and the art itself is perfect for the time period and really well done (as Alex Ross's art always is).

The four-issue series has plastic semi-transparent covers with the series title that overlays the unmarred book covers. And the books' covers are heavy card-stock - rare amongst the offerings of Marvel (or just about any comic publisher, really). Except for Marvels issue #0. It's a short origin story with several Alex Ross character pages and promo art following the story. No card stock or special cover.

Marvels includes just about the entire stable of Marvel superheroes (the Avengers, DareDevil, Spider-man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc) with a premise that's very similar the X-Men films of the 2000s - the unavoidable mistrust the public develops when super bad-guys arise and are only defeated by superheroes - and is presumably similar to the X-Men comics, but I've never read an X-Men comic, so I can't say for sure.

Marvels is also really similar to George RR Martin's WildCards novels that were published several years before Marvels (starting in 1987). WildCards is a darker - and more adult - look at people with mutant super-powers (originating from aliens, if I remember correctly) and people aren't especially enamored of the mutants in these stories, either.

So I guess I'm saying this is a tired trope that's been done over and over. But Alex Ross's art makes any sequential art story amazing. I have the first issue of the new Marvel comic that's only partially Alex Ross's work, but I haven't taken the time to read it yet, so I can't opine on that one.

Star Wars
I followed up Marvels with one of the many Star Wars comic book series from Dark Horse in my collection (before Marvel took back the license and started flooding the market with a million Star Wars titles). I don't have much to say about these issues other than the covers were pretty sweet - as one would expect with Alex Ross cover art. Yes, the same Alex Ross I just praised relentlessly did at least a few of these covers.

The story takes place sometime shortly after the events of A New Hope. Dark Horse put out a ton of these "in-between" books that take place in the spaces between the films. I need to dig out the Star Wars Infinities comics one of these days - an awesome twist on Star Wars with "what if..." alternate storylines.



Laurie B
The current comics in my cubicle aren't actually comic books. They're sketchbooks I picked up over several years from the San Diego ComicCon: Laurie B's Pure Heroine (that's "Heroine" as in a female hero, not the drug). Most of these have an extra little sketch inside where Laurie signed them. The back covers are equally awesome (or even more awesome, in this case) as the front. These are very awesome and treasured memories. Laurie's an amazing artist and a very nice person.

Sadly, my boycotting of ComicCon also meant not seeing the familiar faces I had come to know and looked forward to seeing each year. I don't even know if Laurie still makes the trip down from Canadia for ComicCon anymore.

My Doodles

Here are a couple of new doodles I've done: one of the first steam locomotives, The Rocket, Olaf the snowman, and a really not-great Belle sketch. My doodle skills are atrophying more and more each day as I fail to pick up a pencil and create anything interesting.

Emeli's skills, on the other hand, have surpassed mine even at their peak in the enthusiasm of my youth. Emeli is so skilled that she's been commissioned by several people to do sketches. But, unlike me, she's not limited to working in graphite/pencils. She also paints, can sketch flawlessly in pen, and can even etch out amazing creations with scratch boards. Here's one of her amazing sketches.






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Merry Christmas!
(Yeah, I know it was a while ago.)

And speaking of things that happened in December...Christmas! I didn't post anything festive in December at all. My suckage knows no bounds. But better late than never, right?

Anyway, Christmas was spent in the least Christmassy place on Earth: at home in San Diego. Our well-decorated Christmas tree was festively decorated from mid-November to early January (the best thing about a fake tree: it never dries out and decomposes in your living room) and we did eventually put up some exterior lights and decorations, but Christmas just isn't Christmas without being surrounded by extended family and having snow to play in. I'm hoping to have a real Christmas in the snow with gobs of family next year. That said, I did get some sweet Christmas loot: a clock that runs backwards (this from the office Christmas party white elephant gift exchange - now running in my cubicle next to my Math clock), a sweet wooden watch (the band and exterior of the case are wood - the rest is metal) with exposed gears (under glass, of course) that self-winds when worn (and dies quickly when not worn/manually wound), and some Clark's shoes that I'd long admired but never ponied up the dough to buy.

But enough about my Christmas loot...

Potterland...again
I made my triumphant return to Harry Potterland a few months ago (the first visit since December 2016 - around 3 years later). I'd been jonesing for some Butterbeer and...well, just a visit to Hogsmeade1. Harry Potterland was not at all crowded on this visit. I walked right onto the Hogwarts ride and on to the Hagrid roller coaster without any wait. To be honest, this was a little disappointing in both cases because there's so much fun stuff to look at while you wait, but it feels weird to stop and soak it in when people are shuffling past you as you gawk at the scenery (not to mention my own family that was complaining about the frequent stops to soak in the scenery).

We were also in time to catch the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang performers. Unsurprisingly, all the performers were different from those I saw in 2016 (I would often see the same performers in 2016 when we visited throughout the year). The Hogwarts Choir was singing when we arrived, but we only caught a little bit of their performance as we were wandering through Hogsmeade. We did hear a snippet of the Christmas songs they performed. Hogsmeade at Christmas is great.




The Three Broomsticks, my favorite over-priced place to eat in Potterland, was equally uncrowded on this visit. We walked right up to the house elf taking orders and we were able to sit just about anywhere we liked. We decided to site in the back by the impressive antler collection. I tried the Holiday Feast (turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and a veggie - which was only available during the Christmas season) and found it delicious. Maybe not as delicious as the Bangers and Mash I'd had on the previous visit, but still very good. The Butterbeer was every bit as delicious as I remembered and I'm craving it as I sit here writing this.

click here to show all the thumbnails



Before we left, we watched the Christmas light show on (actually "on") Hogwarts castle. It concluded with a fireworks show and was really impressive. I don't remember seeing anything like that in 2016.




We also looked around at the British section of the European streets where The Walking Dead "ride" is nestled right in the middle of Baker Street. It's funny that The Walking Dead is located here, but I guess it had to go somewhere. I didn't see Sherlock's shadow this visit, but I could have just missed it. I was being rushed along by people who were less concerned about seeing what was there than getting to the next thing to not look at either. We did see a bunch of characters around the park entrance: Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma, Daphne, Lucille Ball, Dracula, and BettleJuice. I'm sure there were others, but those are the ones I remember.

Also notable, there was a guest in an orange velour track suit who was posing with characters throughout the park, dancing with them, battling the transformers, etc. that we ran into several times throughout our visit. I wish I'd taken a picture of him on one of the many interactions. So weird.

And there were, as usual, the loud New Yorkers yelling back and forth to each other in the New York section of "main street."

click here to show all the thumbnails



Speaking of The Walking Dead "ride", it was a little different from what I remember 3 years ago. The only definite difference was the removal of the crashed, smoldering helicopter (on the roof of the hospital). It seems like there were others, but there aren't any that I still remember specifically.

There wasn't a single person ahead of us or behind us.

Despite the complete lack of crowdedness, I still I took too many photos that didn't turn out. The Universal employees in the main line area room (just before the "ride" actually begins) shut me down and stopped me from taking more than a couple of photos in that room and the photos in the hospital hallway never trun out very well for some reason. It was weird to be alone in that room (other than the Universal employees). Just a little creepier than normal.

click here to show all the thumbnails



In other non-Potter news, I also rode the new Jurassic Park ride for the first time. It's an amazing feat of engineering and special effects, but I missed the death and mayhem of the Jurassic Jungle Cruise (the previous version of the ride). The dinosaur-containing aquarium is great. It was a chilly day, so I'm glad I didn't get drenched (as I was warned by the Universal employees that I would - the end of the ride is a very tall log flume). I suspect that's a way to sell buttloads of rain ponchos, because there were a lot of people in ponchos. Admittedly, the guys at the front of the boat did get really wet,

There were also many other opportunities to get damp on a cool day throughout the ride - spitting, splashing dinosaurs aplenty. It would be a nice cool ride in the summer.

I almost tried the Transformers ride for the first time, but it was having mechanical problems. So after waiting in line (without moving) for about an hour, I bailed on that one. Maybe next time.

We also rode the ever-fun Studio tour. The tour guide was okay, but not as funny as some we've had in the past. And there was one big difference (I think there were actually a few changes, but this one was the best) - Norman Bates was hanging out at the Bates Motel (I think he was putting a body in the trunk of a car) and then came walking toward the tram as we stopped to take photos. As he drew nearer, we could see that he was holding something hidden at his side. And then he reached the car ahead of us and savagely attacked one of the passengers, stabbing her forty-seven times, sending plumes of blood and viscera over the other passengers in the car...

Just kidding. Norman Bates was there, but nobody was stabbed. He did have a big kitchen knife and chased after the tram for a while, though.


Before we left Universal Studios, I picked up a few tasty Hogsmeade treats from Honeydukes. I wanted to try a few things I hadn't gotten on previous visits, so I tried fudge flies and butterbeer fudge. The Fudge Flies were milk chocolate, so not especially great, but the chocolate was good quality and tasty, nonetheless. The Fudge was super rich and creamy and so delicious. I'm craving that now, too, but I'll probably try one of the other fudge flavors next time instead. I also bought a Ravenclaw house tie and a chocolate frog in the shops outside the gates (Universal's Downtown Disney). I bought the frog, with it's forgettable milk chocolate frog to get the wizard card. The chocolate frog is cheaper in Downtown Universal, but...also smaller and much less fancy than the wizard card you get in Honeydukes - so that was a disappointment (I only remembered there was a difference after the fact).


December Darling, Meg & Dia

In non-Universal-Studios-related Christmas news, I ordered the Meg & Dia Christmas Album, December Darling, from their web site. I bought the Dia Frampton Christmas album in-store (Target, as I recall) when it came out a year or two ago, but December Darling was nowhere to be seen anywhere but online. I guess that's the new order of things2.

There wasn't much of a CD liner, just the front cover fold-out with the lyrics inside and the 2 photos of Meg & Dia on the front and back. That was slightly disappointing. The photo-filled, insane rant-filled, or at least multi-page something-filled CD liner books are one of the main reasons I still prefer the physical media over the digital downloads.

The album is mostly just Meg and Dia (mostly Dia, I'd say) singing traditional Christmas songs. I love Dia's quirky voice, so this album was a treat for me. There are also some original Christmas songs on the album which were also nice.

Here's one of my favorites from the CD, Dia singing Let it Snow.



I was also going to blather about my extra nerdilicious cubicle, but I've lost interest.

Next time, possibly.





1 I often also miss New Orleans Square at Disneyland and maybe even Disneyland's Main Street the same way when I don't return for months or years at a time - and then I remember why I let my Disney annual pass lapse after too many overcrowded visits.

2 I am still getting all my music on physical media, tough. I'll be super bummed if my only option is digital music at some point in the dark and dreary future. I guess I'll have to resort to buying old CDs, the same way I'm buying old records these days. Speaking of old records, I just got a Pseudo Echo record that I bought on Discogs.com. Sadly, there were multiple versions of this record sold in 1987, and I received the wrong one, or at least not the record I thought I was ordering. No Funky Town for me!



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