January 20, 2007

One more helping

I had finally learned to order “long black” when I wanted coffee in Australia but my short visit to Melbourne was already over, memories of barramundi floating dreamily through my semi-conscious mind as an early-morning taxi took me to the airport. I was looking forward to this next segment in first class on Cathay Pacific. It was a daytime flight so I doubted I’d be using the flat-bed feature but from past experience I knew I was going to have a good time. I was in fact the only passenger in F on this flight. I started with a light breakfast and then scanned the movie selection. I figured I could get in four movies on the flight, which I did. Woody Allen’s Scoop, starring uberbabe Scarlett Johansson, added to his unending oeuvre of funny little movies, while The Illusionist proved Paul Giamatti can do more than complain about bad wine.

As the flight wore on I decided what they really needed in these first-class cabins were gyms. You’ve got nothing to do on these flights and it would be a great time to work out. I didn’t see one, though, so instead I ordered dinner. I looked over the menu: filet, lamb – barramundi! I read no further and ordered one more helping of my new favorite fish. It was wonderful. I paired it with a nice Brunello di Montalcino. At the conclusion to the flight the attendants let on that they recognized me as a poker player and had me all sign playing cards for them.

I had deliberately left some extra time for my connection in Hong Kong because the first-class lounge there, The Wing, is the best in the world. You get a private cabana with shower, bath, and babbling brook. I caught up on the Internet and took a hot lazy cool shower after. The next leg, to Bangkok, was a short two-hour flight on Cathay. It was a two-cabin plane so I suffered through business class. Even on this short flight they served a delicious hot sea bass. No barramundi though.

It was my first time in Bangkok’s new airport. I wanted to see if I could transfer to Chiang Mai without clearing customs and to my pleasant surprise it was possible, although it was a very long walk to the domestic departures. I waited in one of the many Royal Silk lounges, got online, and then took the one-hour final leg of today’s long, long journey. My brother Mike was waiting for me at the Chiang Mai airport and he drove me to the Sheraton (formerly the Westin, where I have stayed many times), and having been up for 22 hours I simply crashed in the big old suite.

Labels: , , , ,

November 22, 2006

Politics, sausages, and writing

November is Seattle’s worst month, but even at that there’s a comforting quality to the gray blanket of low clouds, the cool rain dripping daily from evergreen needles and thatched roofs, the lazy sunrise and reassuring peek of setting sun well before dinnertime. I remember driving around in the dark, wipers on high but still insufficient to keep the windshield dry, peering out into the night, headlamps making crystal beads out of the fat droplets. This is the time of year to light the fireplace, snuggle on the sofa with tea and blankets, wear sweaters and slippers and dig out the Netflix.

I reluctantly started the much-hated non-Sorkin season seven of West Wing and was surprised at how much I liked it. Clever writing had given way to clever plot lines and it felt more like 24 than West Wing but I immediately ordered the rest of the disks. I also watched The Lady Eve, one of Paul Phillips’s recommendations. An old Preston Sturges con-artist romantic comedy with Henry Fonda, I’m surprised I never saw it before. I should order all the rest of Sturges’s films – talk about clever writing!

With nothing on the rotisserie until Thanksgiving Day I called Mike Craig and asked if this would be a good time to fly down to Phoenix and work on our poker book (second poker book, actually – I wrote one of the chapters in the upcoming Full Tilt Strategy Guide – Tournament Edition) and fix me up with the four hot chicks he keeps threatening on me. It was, so I booked a flight and got a suite at the Westin Kierland. Mike offered me a vacant condo but I wanted a place with a gym so I could continue my workout regimen uninterrupted. Mike is one of those rare writers who actually gets work done, which is why I twisted his arm to collaborate on this book with me. Originally I was just going to publish a collection of my blog entries but as we strategize and synergize it looks like there will be a ton of new material. I’m excited.

I won’t go too much into the inner workings of politics, sausage-making, or writing a book, but suffice it to say that we’re making progress despite taking plenty of time to hang out with Mike’s family, smoke cigars out by the fire, and eat at each of the new Mastro’s restaurants with a different one of his yenta selections for me each night. We also got to see Arnie the Compmeister, whose wife and daughter it turned out the Craigs actually knew already. I’ve been drinking the 2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet by the glass – 2004 continues to be a very promising year for Napa, perhaps as good as 2002. I plan to fly back to Seattle on Thursday, in time for turkey at the Saltas, with a stack of Myspace addresses burning a hole in my pocket.

Labels: , ,

November 6, 2006

Twenty-Four Seven

I finished watching season two of 24 on DVD, and despite some outrageous plot devices and a few technical slip-ups (“that uses Huffman encoding so you should be able to use it anywhere”) I liked it a lot. At the end of every episode I laugh out loud at how they manage to create a cliffhanger every hour, on the hour.

It may just be that Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is the perfect embodiment of some of my most important values: freedom, loyalty, and progress. Elisha Cuthbert, who plays a blonde version of my first wife, doesn’t hurt either, and the constant Kafkaesque shifts in the characters’ realities make for gripping, if somewhat far-fetched, spy drama. The final season of West Wing just came out on DVD, so I’ll watch that, intermixed with Paul Phillips’s movie recommendations, before getting season three of 24.

Being a guy who bleeds Microsoft blue, I faithfully downloaded Internet Explorer 7 when notified it was available by Windows Update. I was excited to try out the tabbed browsing that users of alternative browsers are always crowing about. I still can’t see much advantage to it other than speed, and the implementation by Microsoft has a couple very poor design decisions. Now I need to train myself to close tabs in two different ways: the X on the tab for all but the last one, and the X on the window to close the browser itself if I am done with the last tab. It’s just silly for there to be no X on the last tab; it should bring you back to a blank page or the home page as you opt.

The second problem is there doesn’t seem to be any way to get all new pages to display in a tab by default. Why on earth would you want it do default to a whole new browser window once you have these tabs? And if you use the nifty little arrow on the Favorites menu to open a new tab, it takes three clicks (plus the click to drop down the favorites menu) to actually see the new page! As Bill used to whine in design-review meetings, “Doesn’t anybody actually try to use this thing?” I guess it’s unreasonable to expect such a megacorporation to maintain what Charles Simonyi used to call “the craftsman’s fine hand” but come on! This is the flagship product! Guys, just call me any time and I’ll make your design decisions for you at only double my usual rate.

I found and plugged a leak in my Chuzzle game and I am now very close to even on the non-illegal Skilljam non-gambling site, non-illegal because you gamble with Chuzzles rather than cards I guess. Look for me at the final table of the World Series of Chuzzle. Oh yeah. I guarantee a win.

Labels: , , ,

November 3, 2006

Coda to the wine-shipping story

After learning that shipping two bottles of wine to myself from Las Vegas to Seattle was illegal, I got several emails from readers advising me to pack the wine myself and lie about the contents of the box to FedEx. I do, of course, know how to circumvent the law. I’m just sad when I consider that nearly everyone is forced into being a lawbreaker as more and more sumptuary laws go on the books and police departments become paramilitary units. I’m sad when I consider it’s no longer newsworthy when a SWAT team breaks down a family’s door, shoots their dogs, and seizes assets because they found traces of marijuana and cocaine while going through their trash. I don’t use those drugs but I don’t want to live in a police state.

Another reader emailed me that he was voting for whoever was best at keeping us safe from terrorism, and he thought that was the Republicans. Please. Even if you suspended disbelief long enough to believe a President who can barely put a sentence together is qualified to understand the politics of the Middle East, not even the level of security they have in Israel can stop terrorism. What we can stop is the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. Asset-forfeiture laws make a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Airport security is a circus. I can’t bring a bottle of water into the airport? Please. The Internet gambling ban is a disgusting mixture of protectionism and theocracy. I’m voting dog shit all the way.

By the way, the airline lost my luggage with the wine in it. I got a knock on the door just before midnight from a smiling delivery dude with the wrong bag. We decided he had just delivered mine to the wrong house. He vamoosed and I waited for his return while watching season two of 24. Finally I looked out on the porch and my bag had magically appeared, the driver too embarrassed to show his face again.

Labels: , ,