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Various & Sundry Autistic Ramblings

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29th September 2006

10:38am: Why are so many of Metrobus' riders simpletons and half-wits? I get sick and tired of people delaying everybody by asking the bus driver 10,000 stupid goddamn questions which indicate the person is either too lazy to do basic research or TOO GODDAMN STUPID TO READ A FUCKING MAP. Jesus!! How did these people graduate from 3rd grade?

(Nobody asked questions in Sweden; people there are smart enough to know how to get where they're going.)

Only-barely-related peeve: when I'm walking down the sidewalk, there's always some clown who pulls over and asks me for directions. What do I look like, Rand McFuckingNally? Go buy your own damn map.

27th September 2006

9:40am: Autumn Vacation, Part II
They stamped my passport when I got to Iceland, but when I entered Sweden, I went under the sign that said "nothing to declare" and . . . no counter. I just walked out into the airport. Knocked me for a loop; I had expected an interrogation like when I visited Canada five years ago.

Went to a lot of museums which all run together in my mind. Lots of wooden furniture, log cabins, medieval tapestries, including one which looked uncannily like graphics from some early '80s video game!
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I ate at restaurants every night, and since service charges are included and waiters there are paid a living wage, tipping is not done. It felt really weird to pay only the amount of the food.

One day I took a train up to Uppsala so I could see the ruins from pagan times. Their rail service beats Amtrak all hollow. You just buy a ticket from a machine and get on the train. No one asks to see your papers or anything.
Stockholm Central Station

The sixth-century mounds:





Since it was such a nice day I decided to walk the 6 km back to town instead of taking the bus. Gorgeous countryside.



Ford's in his flivver, all's well with the world!



Uppsala or La Jolla?



On a 19th-century building, ivy looks picturesque; on a 1980s structure, not so much.



Crossing the river. (Parenthetical note: there seem to be no gnats in Sweden.)



Uppsala's old city.



I ate at a local fastfood place called MAX; the counter girl misunderstood my fumbling attempts at Swedish and sold me two complete meals! I didn't mind, though, since all that exercise in the hot sun had made me ravenous. Wolfed them both down.

Since I hadn't thought to get a map of Uppsala, I got lost downtown and ended up making my train back to Stockholm with just two minutes to spare!

21st September 2006

5:53pm: A high school. They knew how to make buildings attractive in those days.

I had to climb up this every morning to get to the Slussen tube station

Late afternoon

Sunset over Stadshus

'For us, all have the same value: homo, bi, trans, hetero and Christian Democrat (the closest Sweden has to our Republican Party)'
4:02pm: Österlänggatan in the rain



Fountain in Gamla Stan



Subway car (note the Green Party ad!)



Subway art: psychedelic sperm!



Watch out; Bob Newhart's coming at you!



More later . . .
8:23am: Just back from Stockholm and I had a great time!

Sweden is a beautiful country, and I got lucky with the weather: warm and sunny almost every day. I even got a suntan!

My flight was on Icelandair, so I connected through Keflavik. After the frightening bleakness of Iceland, Sweden's familiar countryside came as a relief. There's a considerable amount of forest, most of it probably concealing abandoned nineteenth-century farmsteads.

I stayed at two hostels, Zinkensdamm for six nights and Rygerfjord the remaining time. The latter is actually a boat permanently moored in Stockholm's harbor. (And devilishly difficult to find; I spent two hours tramping all over the waterfront, looking for "Kajplats 12." But they gave me a private room, rather than a bed in a dorm, and that was pretty nice. The toilets and showers were up a steep flight of stairs, though. (And to get anywhere away from the harbor, you had to climb some more: the two closest "streets" to the ship aren't streets at all, but steep staircases.

(I lost some weight. Heh.)

Stockholm is gorgeous. I fell in love with the Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the city, situated on a separate island, with narrow and twisting cobblestoned streets, and alleys some of which are less than six feet wide. Nice and cozy. (I'm a claustrophile!)

The city's mass transit goes everywhere, and it works. Trains and buses run frequently and on time. Even the suburban shopping malls have direct entrances to subway stations -- not like here, where you have to cross half a mile of parking lot and at least one major highway to get to even the most Metro-convenient mall.

City streets are bright and bustling, lined with apartment houses with neighborhood shops on the ground floor. Every block seems to have a supermarket and a Pressbyrå (local version of 7-11, though there are also a lot of genuine 7-11s.) I wandered all around the city and I never saw a neighborhood that I would call "bad". Even vacant stores are rare.

Sweden is a surprisingly diverse country. I saw people of all races speaking fluent Swedish. One suburb, Rinkeby, seems to be nearly 100% immigrant, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.

These suburbs, built in the 50s and 60s, are much more well-planned than their US equivalents. They center around a public square with a subway station and neighborhood stores. Around it are high-rise apartment blocks, with lower-density apartments and houses farther out. Everywhere there are separate pedestrian pathways and highway underpasses. Also, all the sidewalks in the city have demarcated bicycle lanes.

That's enough for now; more later! (Always leave 'em wanting more!)

5th September 2006

7:39am: Only 12 hours to go! I'm pretty excited; could sleep only 5 1/2 hours last night.

I leave for BWI at 1:30; there's a bus that's supposed to get me there by 4. The weather gods seem to have decided to give me a preview of Northern European conditions: cool and wet. They're supposedly serving dinner on the flight and I'll be able to have lunch before I leave.

I'll be in Stockholm until the 20th. If my plane crashes, well, it was nice knowing y'all. Heh.

13th August 2006

3:44pm: Really nice weather this weekend. I went to the DMV yesterday morning to get my ID renewed; only took me an hour. Then I walked the 2 miles to Target and bought six boxes of caffeine pills. (Their brand is a third of the price of NoDoz, the next cheapest, and last time I went to Target, at Springfield Mall, they were out.) Also stopped by the PetsMart to admire the cats they had up for adoption.

My kitchen is infested with tiny ants. If it was just me, I'd spray the place until they were no more, but my mother doesn't want to use bugspray in the kitchen, so every day there are ants running around the counter.

Little Miss Sunshine is an excellent picture; saw it last week and laughed my head off. Looking forward to next weekend's Snakes on a Plane.

Only 24 days until I leave the country! I wasn't planning to take shampoo or bottled water anyway. I will need my caffeine pills and my vitamin C and E supplements, but so far as I know they haven't banned those.

Oh, one finds the most interesting names on property deeds. There's an Asian woman who's married to a Mr. Cox, and her name is . . . wait for it . . Mi Suk Cox. I don't know if anyone's let her know she'd really be better off changing it.

There's also a man named Kevin Bang Ho.

And a Mr. Bauernfeind, which means "enemy of the peasants." A badge of pride to his ancestors, perhaps??

27th June 2006

6:17pm: It's rained almost non-stop for two days around here, accompanied by tropical humidity. I wonder if this is what it's like to live in the Amazon basin. Perhaps it's closer to India during monsoon season!

23rd June 2006

6:46pm: Last night we got hit by some serious thunderstorms. Lightning every few seconds, thunder that shook the house. I was really afraid the building would be struck. The racket kept me up till 1:30 and I got a whole four hours of sleep last night. We never lost power, though many in the area did.

This weekend and into next week, it's supposed to be thoroughly nasty: heavy rains, upper 70s, high humidity.

Lance Bass was truly a moron on Match Game last night. I'd never seen the show; loved the 1973-vintage orange carpet!

21st June 2006

5:55pm: Okay, I haven't updated in a billion years, but my life was just too boring to post about.

But things have been happening, mostly computer-related.

PC stuffCollapse )

Cars was a pretty good picture. Once you can wrap your mind around the idea of anthropomorphic motor vehicles, the story draws you right in. Makes you wonder, though: before 1900, were the characters' ancestors all horses?

It might be my imagination, but I think children's entertainment is getting better. None of the previews before Cars made me grit my teeth, as trailers before previous Pixar films did.

Also been watching Game Show Marathon on CBS. The Let's Make a Deal episode reminded me why I never watched that show: even as a kid, it insulted my intelligence.

Scandinavian adventureCollapse )

Hmm, is that all? I guess it's enough for now. Don't want to overflow LJ's buffer!

29th March 2006

6:20am: These immigration protests. Jesus, this country is really going down the toilet. "Our economy needs illegals?" Fucking bullshit. There was a time, 30 or 40 years ago, when we had hardly any illegals in the DC area and you know what? Lawns got mowed, dishes got washed and buildings got built. Somehow you never see anyone mentioning _that_ obvious fact in the newspapers!

Once we had a stable, native-born, English-speaking working class. This has pretty much vanished. Employers nowadays are just too goddamn greedy to pay people a living wage so they tacitly encourage lawbreaking. Is this the kind of country we really want to live in? One with a permanent alien underclass? One where you can't make anything more than coolie wages unless you put yourself deep in debt by going to college -- even if you don't want to and even if you aren't that bright?

I wish I had access to alternate universes so I could check out a US which gave the INS some teeth and was really serious about limiting immigaration to 200,000 a year -- an amount which could be assimilated without causing ghettos or crashing wages, where Culmore and Langley Park are still livable, decently-priced neighborhoods instead of gang-infested hellholes, where the Anglophone Caucasian is not an endangered species in Farifax County.

8th January 2006

10:11am: TVsDepot.com
So my monitor died on Thursday December 29 and I need a new one. (Temporarily I'm using a tiny 15-inch monitor rescued from the back room). I think to myself, I'm going to be using this thing for several hours each day; I should splurge, get the biggest and best I can afford. After reading reviews I decided on the Viewsonic VP231WB. Used Froogle to find the lowest price and TVsDepot had it.

I placed my order early on December 31, expecting it would ship on Tuesday or Wednesday. Every day I check the website and it still says just "Order Received." The product listing has no indication as to whether they actually have any in stock or not. So by Friday morning I start getting a little impatient and I send this email to their customer service address:

I ordered a Viewsonic VP231WB monitor on December 31, but almost a week later, the status is still "Order Received". Is it out of stock? Why hasn't it shipped yet? I'd really like to get it before the next holiday weekend (MLK Day).

I thought that was nice and polite, right? So Friday afternoon I get home and find an email from TVsDepot. I think, wow, I've galvanized them into action! Yay me! So I open it and find

Dear Neidhart,
Your order (xxxxxx) has been Cancelled.
Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you!

WTF??!? Not a word of explanation? I'm not allowed to even ask a fucking question? If it's out of stock just say so! You made me waste a week waiting on a goddamn chimera!

Pigfuckers.

x-posted to bad_service

31st December 2005

9:36pm: As I write this I'm listening to Hot Jazz New Year's Eve on WAMU. Boy, Al Jolson's voice would really be annoying if you had to hear it more than once a century.

5th October 2005

5:36pm: Happy Birthday globetrotter1!

28th September 2005

9:15am: Well, I'm back from Chicago and what a time it was! I wish I could have just gotten an apartment and stayed there. Not as unrealistic as it sounds: rents are amazingly cheap by DC standards. One-bedrooms in decent neighborhoods are going for $650 -- utilities included!

Read more...Collapse )

Flying back, admiring the countryside below, I found myself wondering if you could make a GPS gadget installed in the window that painted the placenames, state and county lines on the land below so you would know what you were looking at, the same way the Xs and Os are painted on the TV screen during a football game.

18th September 2005

10:06am: I'm leaving for ORD in half an hour! Yippee!!

9th September 2005

6:15pm: I'm the only person on Metro who can keep his balance while the train bounces through the tunnel without needing to hold onto anything. I kind of wish someone would notice, because it's one of a very few things I'm good at!

7th September 2005

9:59pm: Since I'm a limited-term employee, I get a whole month off from work! Unpaid, but hey, you can't have everything.

I've decided to pay another visit to Chicago; I'll be there from Sunday the 18th till Tuesday the 27th. It'll be good to spend some time away from home. I'm really getting sick of Washington and its Third World bus system run by grunting morons with IQs of 60.

Think I'll see Red-Eye tomorrow. Maybe 40-Year-Old Virgin this weekend.

A new Barnes & Noble is opening at the end of the month in Tysons Corner in the former Woodward & Lothrop/JC Penney space.

Just this moment a REALLY LOUD motorcycle blasted past outside. Christ, I hate those assholes. Shouldn't we have noise pollution laws around here?

5th August 2005

6:32am: The bus I ride in the morning is always so crowded I have to stand, so what does WMATA do? Switch to a smaller bus to make it even more uncomfortable! I'm so fucking sick of being packed cheek by jowl with half the population of Central America. This is becoming more and more of a third world country every day.

2nd July 2005

6:26pm: Finally a nice July 4 weekend! We deserve it. And happy belated Canada Day, everyone!

I saw War of the Worlds today. Terrific. Beats the George Pal version hollow. There's one scene involving a train which, not to spoil it, will make you jump. Dakota Fanning wasn't as annoying as I feared she'd be after the first few minutes.

18th May 2005

9:12pm: I had a nasty cold last week, and on Friday morning I felt so crappy I called in sick for the first time in my working history. Appropriate that it was the 13th, I suppose. I'd pretty much recovered by Sunday morning. Saw Crash on Saturday, wasn't as impressed with it as the reviewers all seemed to be.

I just bought (through Fandango) my ticket for Star Wars III: Saturday noon at the Uptown. Kind of surprised it hadn't sold out already. I'll try to show up an hour early so I can be sure of getting a seat in the middle of the row, third or fourth row back.

Name spotted on a document at work: Oral Butcher. I wonder if he's a dentist.

Weather's been beautiful lately: low 70s and sunshine, if a bit chilly in the mornings.

21st April 2005

6:26am: For some reason, I'm not having as much fun going to movies every evening as I used to. Maybe it's all the burgers and Potbelly sandwiches I'm having for dinner which are causing some kind of nutritional deficiency. Maybe it's all the popcorn. Maybe it's having to get up at 5-5:30 the next morning regardless of how late the film runs. Who knows, I'm just feeling sort of blah.

Fun fact: the Spanish pronoun yo is pronounced zho in Argentina.

7th April 2005

6:37am: It hit 80 degrees yesterday -- the first time since September 23. (We haven't had a 90-degree day since August 4.) Perfect sleeping weather last night: 63 degrees and desert-like humidity. Pity it can't last.

Filmfest DC is coming up and I'm looking forward to it. An opportunity to see the world without leaving home! Kind of worried about getting enough sleep, since the movies end so late I'd be getting home around midnight.

2nd March 2005

6:35am: More snow on Monday. The really wet, sloppy kind that sticks on every surface. It just looked so beautiful walking home on Monday evening, the sky pink from reflected lights, the snow on the branches like peppermint icing on Christmas cookies. Made up for the late start. I wonder if we'll get any more.

The new season of The Amazing Race has begun! Woo-hoo! I'm rooting for Debbie and Bianca.

25th February 2005

6:41am: Whoo, five inches of snow yesterday! Didn't expect that after the mild February we've had so far. It isn't often we get so much snow so late in the year. And it's a heavy wet snow that clings to everything. Reminds me of February 1986, when we had three storms in the last week of the month, all in the 2-5 inch range, all with temperatures above freezing.
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