Friday, July 30, 2010

Batman: Under The Red Hood


Just finished watching the Blu-ray of this, which was released earlier this week. I have to say, I was very impressed. Although I wanted to hate the storyline--because of a certain controversial decision to bring someone back from Batman's past who's been long dead--the production values of this animated film kept me glued for the entire 75 min run. The voice work was superb, and the animation's more in line with what I like to see in animated movies of a dark and mature nature. Almost like the HBO's "Spawn" series from back in the day.



And you know what? Now that I had some time to process the big reveal of just who it is that's "under the red hood," I actually think it's a pretty neat new development. Sure, we probably could have done without it . . . but now that it's here, Batman will just have to deal with it like he always does. It makes the universe he inhabits just a little more interesting now.



But I won't say anymore. What I *will* say is this: if you're a big fan of anything and everything Bats, do yourself a favor and check this out. Especially if you've liked the superbly slick and mostly spot-on direct-to-video animated movies Warner and DC have been putting out lately. This is another shining badge to add to their collection.

Check out the trailer below if you want an idea of what you're getting with this film:



Rent or buy (I recommend buy), you owe it to yourself to check this out. Trust me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Future's So Bright . . .

Yesterday on his blog, "Whatever", SF writer John Scalzi expressed amazement over his new Droid X phone, and asked us all to consider the moment a particular piece of technology or advancement made us realize that we were now in TEH FUTURES!!! The comments from folks writing in their moment is quite the cross-section of different experiences, but little did I know that my own would come this very day. Like Scalzi, the discovery came with regards to my mobile phone; except that my phone is the phone everyone loves to hate -- the Apple iPhone 4.

See, I was watching a Chase bank commercial today. Chase is the bank that I'm with, for those keeping score at home. The commercial was for the Chase banking app on the iPhone that lets you manage your account, pay bills, and transfer money between accounts all remotely. I've had this app on my phone for almost 2 years now. It works great. But apparently it was recently upgraded to include a new exciting feature that has now convinced me that I am truly and surely in TEH FUTURES!!!

Let me presage this discovery by admitting that, in this day and age, I still find the occasion where I have to deposit paper checks. It doesn't happen every day, or even every week. But enough times throughout the year to make it an annoyance for me, particularly during tax season. So what has Chase done now to make my life all the better? Why, they've given me the ability to simply take a photo of my check with the iPhone's camera and use the Chase app to send the pic remotely. When the send is complete, the amount is magically deposited to my account sans the need for an ATM visit or face-to-face time with a teller.

In other words: I can deposit checks into my account FROM MY BED, people! Holy hells!

Yes, yes . . . I'm pragmatic enough to know that this singular feat is probably not as impressive to some of you as it is to me. And I'm also aware that the basic technology behind this function has been around in some form or another on mobile devices for quite some time. But I'd be willing to bet that *your* bank doesn't have this feature, not if your bank isn't Chase. And I'm also willing to bet that you receive the occasional check what needs depositing from time to time, too.

And, I'm sorry, but to me this is just friggin AWESOME!

Isn't it? Well -- ISN'T IT?!!!

Okay, okay. I'm calm now. Let's all return to our more important matters.

Rather Apropos, Don't You Think?

I find it eerily convenient that one of my favorite British sci-fi writers (of which I have quite a few on my short list of fave SF writers these days), just happens to have a book released last week that takes place entirely in a near-future Istanbul. Exactly two weeks after I'd just return from visiting that city for the first time!



Click here for more on the book at Amazon.

Ian McDonald first wowed me a few years back with his short stories and one novel that took place in a near-future India. The way he was able to so aptly capture a foreign culture and render it within some pretty nifty and mind-bending sci-fi concepts was something that just left me in numbing awe. His style and deft of prose and characterization is something I immediately found myself attracted to in these stories, and I've been shamelessly trying to imitate him ever since in my own writing.

He did the same thing for Brazil in another groundbreaking novel, too. And now it seems he's set his eyes on Turkiye. More specifically, Istanbul. Of course, you know, I just had to get this book. I haven't yet read his novel "Brasyl" which is sitting on my shelf, nor "Cyberabad Days" -- a collection of his award-winning short stories set in the near-future India I mentioned before. Both books I've been dying to get to, so I'm afraid "The Dervish House" will have to wait until then.

Or perhaps I should do what I want to do and read this latest book first? C'mon, let me buck the trend and be a total REBEL for once!

Heh, heh . . . we shall see.

Wouldn't You Know It?

They tell me it's going to pour buckets during my morning commute, so I bring my umbrella and nary a drop falls all the way to work. But had I not brought the umbrella? Oh, it would have been the second coming of Noah's flood out there!

What's the big deal you say? Well, nothing 'cept that I *hate* carrying things with me when I have to take the subway. It's crowded and annoying enough on public transportation. Don't need to add to it by burdening myself with unnecessary accessories.

Oh well, such is life . . .

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Movie Scene I Still Love

Was just thinking about the movie "Hustle & Flow" today and how great it was, with one scene in particular standing out for me as a writer. The movie is one of those polarizing effects by which those who have never seen it make wildly inaccurate judgments on what they think it's about, and those who *have* watched it who've come to the realization that it's one seriously good flick!

Yes, the movie is about a Memphis pimp trying to break into the rap game. Yes, it has naughty language and scenes with female bits showing -- OH NOES! But at its heart this is a tale about overcoming the odds and reaching for a dream.

If you have not seen the movie, you should rent it. If you think you're not into this sort of thing, just watch it anyway. Open your mind for 2 hours and think of the real message behind all the cussing and such.

Or, alternately, just check out the clip below and get a glimpse of what it's like to wring creativity out of a few pages of scribbled lyrics:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thank You, Thank You . . . You're Far Too Kind!

I just wanted to issue a quick, but heartfelt THANK YOU to all you wonderful people who continue to read this blog on a daily basis. Or, at least, to make a quick check for updates -- which I know I'd been lax on for the first half of the month.

Truth of the matter is, I've been receiving unprecedented amounts of traffic to the site in the past several weeks. Traffic that even increased for the two weeks I was away and couldn't update. I've even quadrupled the number of unique daily visitors to the blog since I started it almost 2 years ago, and for that I just have to say:

Well, gosh! I didn't realize anyone cared enough to visit. :)

Now, if you shy sonsuvbitches would just leave COMMENTS when you truck on in through my living room and eat my pie, that would really be something. Seriously, how hard is it to click on the little link at the bottom of each entry and leave a few quick words revealing your thoughts?

But it's okay, for I still love you. Mostly.

Except you over there, with the striped green shirt and ridiculous hair. I'm pretty sure I hate you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Because, Danny Trejo Has To Eat . . .

Back in 2007, Grindhouse was released in theaters -- a double-feature bill directed by both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino as a testimony to their love of the schlocky exploitation B-movies of the 60s and 70s. To round out the whole retro feel of the project, 4 "fake" trailers were attached to simulate an actual Saturday afternoon matinĂ©e -- complete with film grain and burn-ins on the stock. It was awesome!

One of the phony trailers was for a movie that just looked way over the top, starring RR's favorite go-to guy, Danny Trejo. It was called "Machete" and perfectly encapsulated the tongue-in-cheek tone of one of the two Grindhouse feature films, Planet Terror. At the time the trailer was never meant to be taken seriously, but it went over so well with audiences that RR decided to give more attention to the thought of actually making this his next real feature film.

And, now ladies and gentlemen, that day has come.

"Machete" -- very much real, large and in charge -- will be coming to a theater near you in the coming weeks. The official trailer was just released last week, and I have to say I'm impressed with how close in tone it still remains to the previous "fake" trailer. With a few surprise faces added to the cast to boot!

As an interesting study, I've included both trailers below. First the phony one from Grindhouse, followed by the real one just released. Keep in mind that this is a movie made purposely to be over-the-top with copious amounts of blood, sex, and violence. Not unlike last year's critically acclaimed, but woefully under-appreciated indie action flick, "Black Dynamite".







I've always been a Danny Trejo fan and a huge supporter of Robert Rodriguez's films, so needless to say I going to be there on opening day.

How about you?

Parents Need To Discipline More

And, no, I'm not talking about hitting the child. You can discipline without resorting to corporeal means to do so.

Anyway, I must preface what I'm about to say with an admission: I don't watch daytime tv, so I'm not familiar with the names of the people who populate such shows like Live! With Regis and Kelly (although I'm sure of at least two of them there), or Good Morning, America and such. Usually the tv plays in the background while I work from home and I barely pay attention to what it's saying.

But yesterday was different. I believe it was the Today Show that was on. I could be wrong. And I don't know who the Asian-looking lady is on one of the segments, but it was during this one that I noticed what's fundamentally wrong about these parents today who want to be their child's friend.

The segment, if I remember correctly (which I'm sure I don't) was about finding activities to do with your children. The guest was a mother who had her young 4 year old with her on the set. While this woman and the host spoke, the little girl could be seen causing all sorts of destructive mayhem in the background. And without barely a pause in her conversation with the other woman, the mother said to her daughter: "Good job, honey!" in that distracted, off-handed manner parents use when they could care two shits what the child is really doing. In this case, the little girl had just finished throwing a toy plane straight into the wall with much relish, breaking it in two.

Excuse me? Good job? Are you fucking KIDDING me? That little girl was clearly acting out to get some attention, and you're just going to congratulate her like some puppy that just did a trick for you?

Since when have parents become such pussies? Because, truth be told, I see this kind of behavior ALL the time these days. Young parents that are so afraid to emotionally scar their child that they give up all rights as a parent to knock some sense into the brat and teach them right from wrong. Instead, they want to reward and comfort them for ANYTHING the kid does short of burning the house down. Drawing a nice family portrait in crayon or snipping the tip of the dog's tail with scissors -- doesn't really matter. Either way: Good job, honey!

Look, people. Stop it. You are not there to be your kids' best friend. They have friends. They don't need that from you. What they *do* need is a firm hand to call them out on their bullshit. Because, let's be honest, kids know full well that they're full of shit. They just want to test the waters and see how much they can get away with from their lackwit parental figures. A pat on the head and a quick "atta boy" is no substitute for actual parenting -- and kids respond to this by acting out even more. Geez, no wonder.

I'm not a parent yet, but when I am I'm certain I'm not going to treat my kids like some accessory to show how successful in life I am. Because that's what children are to some people. Little puppies that are cute and cuddly and fun to show off, but who should be mollified with a nice treat if they intrude too much on your own important big people activities.

Good job, honey! Now just keep doing what you're doing and leave me alone -- mommy's on TV!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Out Brief Candle . . .

Since I was out of the country for two weeks and of sporadic Internet access, I completely missed the sad news from fave sci-fi writer, John Scalzi, about the passing of his family's pet Akita, Kodi.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily call myself a dog person. In fact, I'm not much of a pet person at all. But Scalzi's account on his blog of Kodi's life and what she meant to him and his family is probably the most touching tribute to a beloved pet I've ever read:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/07/17/kodi-1997-2010/

Please check it out for yourself. Trust me, you will be moved to tears. I know I was, which is no small feat. But by the end of the article, I couldn't help myself. Perhaps because I've been reading Scalzi's blog now for several years, and had grown to appreciate his affection for Kodi and laugh at her often serious demeanor and antics with the several cats in that household during this span. I don't know if that is why the news hit me particularly hard, or if John's writing was just so beautifully rendered as to pull at a particular set of heart strings. Probably a little of both. In any event, a loss to the family is sad no matter what.

If any of you are dog lovers out there, be prepared with a box of tissues if you click on the above link. Just a fair warning.

Farewell, sweet Kodi. I did not know you personally, but your passing is felt heavy on my heart nonetheless.

Leave A Tip, You Bum!

I just updated to both a brand new wireless-N network router and a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, and was on the phone with the cable company to register the latter. After the exchange of information was done, I was put through to an automated survey asking to rate the performance of the operator who assisted me.

I did so happily, knowing that these people depend on their customer satisfaction ratings. And, anyway, how hard is it to spend 60 seconds pressing "1 for very satisfactory" over and over again? Unless of course the customer service rep was horrible, in which case that's even MORE of a reason to participate in the survey, no?

So why do most people ignore these things? Is it really that hard to exercise a little empathy for the person assisting you?

It got me to thinking about tips, and how nasty folks can get over giving their service person the due appreciation he or she deserves. On our recent European vacation we witnessed some of our fellow cruisers routinely leaving out tips for services rendered. Services, I might add, that were delivered with the utmost courtesy, professionalism, and skill.

WTF? What is that all about? I'm not talking about on the ship, which had a mandatory gratuity already built in for each cruiser anyway, but on shore excursions mostly. We just couldn't believe it. You might as well slap the tour guide in the face and spit on his shoes!

Why are people so miserly when it comes to money? When I plan the budget for our trips, I do so with the knowledge that tips will have to be factored in. To me, it's part of the cost of travel. So when it comes time for it, I'm not surprised or put out at all.

Why is this so hard for others to do? Given how readily a lot of people accept services but don't tip for them . . . it becomes a little easier to understand the human penchant for enslaving their fellow man. No one wants to do the dirty work, but they'll happily let others do it and not pay them to do so.

Yeah. That's the kind of role model *I* want to be for kids.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Chinese Connection

I was telling Tarrell this story last night . . . but during the cruise, I got a chance to practice my Chinese once again. Lisa and I had missed our early seating for dinner one night, but were able to be accomodated at an unoccupied table clear across the dining room from our usual spot. The assistant waiter was a very young and pretty lady who I somehow knew was Chinese without first seeing her name tag and country of origin.

I told her thank you in Mandarin, and she was genuinely surprised and delighted to hear it. Her name was Huang Lan, I found out. She asked me if I spoke Chinese, and modestly I said "just a little". She seemed lonely and for want of somebody to talk to in her native tongue, though, so for the duration of our dinner we spoke nothing but Chinese to each other. It was really cool.

Funny thing is, for the remainder of the cruise I would suddenly find myself bumping in to her wherever I went. And each time she would smile and start carrying a conversation in Mandarin with me like we were old friends. She asked me once if I were Chinese. And I laughed and said no. Then she asked if one of my parents was, and again I said no. She had this confused look on her face, so I told her I had learned Mandarin at college. I then asked after her own family and which part of China she was from. It was hard to get into too deep of a conversation, however, as she was constantly on the clock and crew were discouraged from mingling with the guests when off shift.

Still, I looked forward to running in to her whenever we were onboard the ship. After a while, Lisa starting asking me: "so, where's your Chinese girlfriend? Go say hi to her!" LOL!

But it was really neat meeting Huang Lan. She was cool people. I tried to get a picture with her, but the last night of the cruise was hectic and I never got the chance. Bummer!

Still, it was fun getting to speak Chinese on a fairly repetitive basis. However, while I found the old skills were still there, I was alarmed by the moments when I would struggle for a certain word or phrase. It sobered me to realize that I really *do* need to get back to taking classes again. I also need to do a better job of immersing myself in the language -- like watching Chinese cable channels and reading Chinese newspapers whenever I can.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Case You're Interested

Just put up all my trip pics on Facebook, conveniently divided into separate folders based on the various ports of call we made on the cruise. So click on the corresponding links below and check out my pics if you're so inclined.

I would suggest starting with Rome and working your way down, because -- hey, I put them in this order for a reason! Honestly, though, you get a much better sense of the overall narrative of our trip if you do the ports in the chronology that we experienced them.

Enjoy! And, no, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to view these. Just click on the link, which will call up the album in question, and then click on the first thumbnail to see the larger image. From there, simply click on the photo to advance to the next one until you get to the end. I've also written captions beneath each image for the sake of clarity and maybe comic relief. I wasn't particularly trying to be funny this time, as I wrote most of those captions while under serious sleep deprivation.

As usual, let me know if you have any problems with the links:

Rome:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209160&id=1219869721&l=3b90b735fc


Santorini & Mykonos:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209154&id=1219869721&l=8c1851d57e


Istanbul:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209125&id=1219869721&l=a53a69a0c7


Kusadasi:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209116&id=1219869721&l=05c90bb45d


Athens:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209107&id=1219869721&l=56d8d21bb7


Naples:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=209077&id=1219869721&l=9b430eb4df

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Look What Came In The Post While I Was Away . . .





My latest electronic toy, and after a much maligned delay of 2 weeks! Sure, I could have used this phone while I was abroad. In fact, it was something I was looking forward to bringing with me due to its improved speed and the compass factor and what-not. I'm not bitter, though. The iPhone 4 got to me in the end, and that's all that matters.

So far it seems to be a significant upgrade to my 2-yr old iPhone 3G. I have to play around with it some more to unlock all its secrets, but so far I'm loving the super gorgeous screen resolution and the advanced camera with video function. Nifty!

Yes, such things make me happy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Just Flew In . . .

And boy are my mechanically enhanced, jet turbine-assisted metallic wings TIRED!

Well folks, it's been a very LONG yet quite fulfilling two weeks abroad.

Wow, where to begin?

To be honest, I have no idea. There's simply too much to tell. I'm sure I'll get around to it sometime soon over the course of the following week, but right now I'm simply too exhausted to be much fun in polite company. I think I'm going to climb into my bed and sleep until Monday.

Yeah, that's the ticket . . .

Those of you who have been keeping track of my hasty day-to-day updates via Facebook have some inkling of what my adventures in the three European countries I visited--Italy, Greece, and Turkey--have been like. But for those who are not on Facebook yet, I'll be providing a link eventually to all my trip pics and captions as per usual. There are a lot.

And perhaps only I will get enjoyment out of seeing them. Perhaps.

In the meantime, I'll offer my very quick impressions of what I've encountered in no particular order. Please keep in mind that these observations are based solely on the fact that I only got to spend, at most, the better part of a day in any one location, with the exception of Istanbul where we had two days to spare.

So, let's see:

Traveling long distances by plane actually gets easier, not harder, the more you do it. Flying to Rome was an 8 hr flight which honestly felt to me like only 5. I never had an international flight go so quickly! It was painless and refreshing, leaving me with no jet lag whatsoever when we touched down. Strange, that. Our return flight was 10 hours direct. But it, too, was over quickly. Since we only just made a similar flight to Paris this past March, I don't think it's a case of being eager new travelers.

Istanbul is a more exciting city than Rome (to me), which in turn is a far more thrilling cosmopolitan center than Athens. Honestly, if you spend more than one day in Greece's capital, you've probably spent too many. However, traveling just an hour or two outside of the city in any direction greatly improves the experience ten-fold.

Still, neither of these cities tops Paris. This trip has only made me appreciate more the uniqueness that is the City of Lights.

While the French seem haughty and not caring too much for all the American tourists flocking to their streets each summer . . . the Italians are the opposite. Dare I say I detected just a wee bit of United States envy there? It's so true! The general view in Italy seems to be that while they have the best food and football players in the world, the U.S. is better in everything else. This may just be a case of the "grass being greener . . ." and all that, though.

I have an uncanny gift for haggling, which I never knew I possessed until this trip. It's actually addicting! By the end of our second day in Turkey, I was even bargaining down the price of a single bar of Dove soap! I half suspect I'm going to walk into the supermarket in my neighborhood now and bargain the cashier girl on the price of eggs. It seems kind of dishonest *NOT* to haggle now, actually. Hmmm, am I turning into a true Turk? :)

Neapolitans claim that they have the best pizza in the world--not New York!--since they invented it. Neapolitans are wrong.

Greece may be the one European country where it is *NOT* chic to be skinny. In general, I found the Greek people to be totally comfortable with their bodies and completely in love with the joy of eating a good meal. Not such a bad philosophy to live one's life by, I must say.

All people in all the great cities of the world think that the driving in their neck of the woods is more dangerous than in New York. Like the Neapolitans and their pizza above. . . these people are, generally speaking, just wrong!

For being the "Eternal City," the streets of Rome are conspicuously quiet after sunset.

Nothing makes you hate sports more than on a cruise ship full of Spaniards the night their team wins the World Cup.

Watching the sun set over the Aegean sea on Santorini is perhaps the most romantic activity on all of Earth!

Parents who let their underage teenage daughters get drunk and wander the ship alone late at night should have their parenting cards revoked and/or possibly drawn out and shot.

And lastly . . . going off the beaten path to find a restaurant with the menu that does not provide an English translation under each item can pay HUGE dividends. Better yet, finding an establishment where the owner hand selects your entire menu for you can result in a meal you'll never forget. Oh yes.

That's all for now. My eyes have glazed over and shut three times already while writing this. I'm going to call it a night. Look for more detailed day reports--and PICS!--to follow eventually.

Ciao, grazie!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Missing Istanbul . . .


As I sit here out on the verandah, slowly being lulled into sleepiness by the gentle rocking of this big ship upon the waves . . . I find myself thinking fondly back to Istanbul.


I wonder why that is? Why among all my travelling is it always the big cities which shine brightest in my memories? Honolulu, Paris, Rome – it must be the New Yorker in me! While everyone yearns for the quiet little cottage in the countryside, I find myself forever drawn to the hustle and bustle of grid-like streets and hurrying crowds. To move to the sway of humanity down quaint, cobble-stoned side alleys lined with shops run by indifferent merchants offering wares of dubious origin and authenticity.

Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the big city that I’m drawn to. The way everyone looks through you but not AT you. You are seen, but rarely noticed. Thousands of eyes scan your face, but no one remembers your name. We’re all just part of the same tapestry – student, professional; foreigner, native; rich, poor. We all belong to that collective OTHER. The gestalt consciousness of the city-mind that never slumbers, but is forever dreaming and yearning for the best life has to offer.

Okay, I realize I’m being oddly philosophical here—dare I say, even romantic—in my enthusiasm. Suffice to say that my brief two days in Istanbul were enough to show me that it is a city after this New Yorker’s own heart. It represents all that I love about cities. The aforementioned anonymity they afford, sure. But also the sheer diversity of all that there is to experience. It has history and timeless culture dating far further back than my own birthplace. I cannot stress enough how much this appeals to me. Just letting my mind roam back through the centuries and imagining all that this city has seen. Things that I’ve only read about in textbooks! Yeah, this element thrills me. It’s why I love old cities like Paris and Athens the most.



Istanbul, like New York, is also forever full of bustle no matter the time of night. I’ve been to other big cities like Philly and San Diego where the main downtown areas seem to shut down the minute the sun sets. Not in Istanbul. For a place where Islam is the dominant religion, folks there sure do know how to have a good nightlife. There’s this image in my head of Lisa and I racing through the lit up maze-like streets of the Beyazit district in the back of a cab that will forever stay emblazoned in my heart. It is the quintessential element of what I love most about cities. That vibrant, electric energy that fills the night when you tap into the frenetic pulse of the metropolis. And lest you think that this is just the ravings of the newly smitten to a strange and exotic foreign land – think again. I still get this same thrill even when Lisa and I go out to dinner in New York!



Like I said, it’s a big city thing. You just can’t duplicate that sort of feel in a rural setting.

Istanbul is a city alive with secrets. Intrigues that go back a thousand years and people who come from a long and proud history. There is a sense of respect and love for time-worn traditions in the shops and restaurants you frequent there, as well as an irrepressible joie de vivre that the younger urbanites share for all things new and modern.

See, few places on earth have that perfect mixture of old meets new like Istanbul. I truly regret that we didn’t have the time to stay longer. All I have are the pictures, videos, and memories inside my head to remind me of the beautiful, glittering city by the sea we left behind. Where the people are no more standoffish than any other city dweller, but are perhaps just a tad more friendly and accepting than most. A city not unlike New York in many ways, yet at the same time completely different and exciting in that old, old world sort of fashion.

For now, these memories and two-dimensional captures will have to suffice. But mark my words: I do plan to return there someday. Yeah, this after just two days . . . I’ve become entranced. That right there should tell it all.

Istanbul is, and forever will be, in my heart.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Well . . . I'm Outtie!


We're off to the city of gladiators and half-draped togas.

Oh wait, time check please . . .

Sorry, I meant to say: We're off to the city of scooters and of food displaying the colors of the national flag!

We're catching the red eye out of JFK tonight, and will *hopefully* land in Rome sometime tomorrow around noon (6 am back here on the East Coast). Flight duration? 8:30 hrs. *YAWN*

As soon as we land we have to immediately make a beeline for that place you see up there at the top of this post, St. Peter's Square at Vatican City. It's about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, but Rome is going to be very sunny and HOT that day according to weather forecasts. Hotter even than New York! Lord help me!

Anyway, we board our cruise ship on Monday. And then it's off to an 11-night adventure to many interesting places across the eastern Mediterranean. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to tell (and pics to show!!!) when we get back. I'm bringing my brand new Dell netbook with us, so hopefully this means I'll have Internet access at some point during this long excursion. If so, don't be surprised to see a few blog entries updating you on our whereabouts and such. It promises to be EXCITING!

In the meantime, behave kids. No keggers while we're gone, please.

Oh, and have a happy 4th -- God Bless America!

P.S. -- This is apparently my 100th post of the year. Hip-hip HOORAY!!! So I believe that makes this my 476th post since I began this whole shindig back in August of '08. My how time has flown. :)

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