Monday, August 31, 2009

My lifelong dream of having a sexy plane in my bedroom is now fulfilled

One day during lunch at work, I made the tragic mistake of admitting to my non-airplane-fanatic co-workers that I believe that there are certain planes that are "sexy." I know, I have problems, but I cannot help the way I see certain things.

When my co-workers pressed me for an example of a "sexy plane" I immediately rattled off the CRJ-100 or 200 and the Airbus A340, all of which I consider to be "sexy" due to their winglets - I just think it makes them look graceful. See for yourself:
I am not a hater, so I would struggle to name a non-sexy airplane, but if absolutely pressed I would name the Cessna Grand Caravan, seen below.
In any case, as you might imagine, I received -perhaps deservedly - quite a bit of abuse after these revelations. There was no shortage of jokes made at my expense regarding certain activities of mine with these planes.

Last week for my birthday, Diane gave me the painting below, which was painted by a friend of hers who happens to be a very talented artist.
It's an absolute masterpiece. When she commissioned the painting, Diane requested three things: (1) winglets, for the obvious reasons stated above; (2) a body of water, because I also have an obsession with bodies of water; and (3) mountains, to represent Colorado and Argentina. She's the best.
By the way, I would simply like to reiterate my disappointment that EgyptAir does not use an A340 on the JFK - Cairo route. It would have been my "first time."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reason #492 why I don't trust lawyers

My first job of any real consequence was at the District Attorney's Office of the Eighth Judicial District of Colorado, which encompasses Larimer and Jackson Counties. I worked in discovery, which for the layman meant the files and evidence room. I would put paperwork in the proper case files, prepare evidence to distribute to defense attorneys, and help with the dockets of the various prosecutors.

It certainly made for interesting work - much more interesting than bagging groceries at Steele's. The DA was Stu VanMeveren, who was pretty legendary and, actually, mythical. I feel as though he was a hologram. When he made appearances everything just sort of stopped and you were left wondering if you actually just seen the legend or if you were dreaming it up. He was a decent person, you know, for a Republican.

In any case, I bring all of this up because the DA's office was recently in the news. in 1987, a woman was murdered in Fort Collins. It was very devastating to the community because there are few acts of such violence in that area. In 1999, a 27-year old man, Timothy Masters, was convicted of committing the crime (meaning he committed the crime as a teenager) and sentenced to life in prison. (Here is a link to all the stories in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, in case you have the time to get into it. It's very interesting - apparently one of the leads was not followed because the suspect was a social friend of one of the prosecutors - see page 2.)

A few years ago, Masters was released because it was ruled that the prosecution had withheld evidence, and, apparently, made up evidence. The prosecutors who lead the case are now District Judges, mind you. (Judge Gilmore and Judge Blair.) Now, an attorney for Judge Gilmore is arguing that "prosecutors who manufacture evidence can't be held liable because making up evidence doesn't hurt anyone until it's used in court - and prosecutors are entirely immune from liability for actions there." Furthermore, "Gilmore and Blair's attorneys argue that since the two were acting in their official capacities, they cannot be held liable for what happened to Masters, in part because there's no specific law barring prosecutors from manufacturing evidence."

How assinine is that?

This leads me to believe that they must be in real trouble if that is their defense. I would have loved to have been a fly in the wall when that strategy was settled on. I think if I was defending Gilmore and Blair and I had a strategy session where some nitwit brought up that defense, I would have flung them out the window like they do to this guy for an equally assinine suggestion.

I suppose this just goes to show you that the tentacles of corruption and evil go pretty deep, even into the most peaceful of communities. By the way, Governor Ritter recently appointed another former prosecutor with connections to the case to the District Court. Great timing, Governor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You are allowed more than one piece of carry-on here

I saw this on the MSN front page today, and consequently, this is on my list of travel destinations, after Iceland of course ;).
It's a 1965 Boeing 727 that's been converted into a suite. The rates range from $400-$500 a night. There is a deck over the wings and some absolutely fantastic views of the jungle and coast line below.

I'm thinking October 2010 and I'm there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Egypt '09

Earlier this year, Diane and I, at my insistence, were having the mandatory, "What would you like to accomplish this year?" conversation. She said some things and then I randomly blurted out, "I want to go to Egypt."
I probably said that because (a) I could not think of anything more clever at the time, (b) I had recently watched an Egypt show on National Geographic, and/or (c) I've had an urge to travel to Northern Africa/the Middle East for a long time.

So, shockingly, Diane took me seriously and we started looking into a trip. My preference is always to travel without a group, that way you can make your way across the country at your pace and dictate your own daily schedule. Diane and I did our due diligence and purchased some Egyptian travel books to read up on. We both really wanted to do a cruise on the Nile. Now, when you do that, you can opt for a very fancy cruise or a budget-friendly falucca ride. A falucca is pretty much a sail boat. Falucca riders stay on the boat during the day then dock at night and travelers sleep out on the banks of the Nile. Also, faluccas don't have indoor plumbing, so when you have to go, you either wait for the next docking station or you just ... well ... you just go over the side. Diane very humbly requested that we splurge a little and get something with a toilet. Not an unreasonable request.

After more research, and considering that this trip would take us to a part of the world with which I was culturally and linguistically unfamiliar, we thought it best that we take an organized tour. Plus, since we could only go for a relatively short period of time, we wanted to maximize what we saw while we were there. So, after some research, we ended up choosing this package.

The final payment just went in and now the trip is official. Later this fall, Diane and I are headed to Egypt. We fly from JFK to Cairo on a EgyptAir, which I understand uses a B777 on the trip. Personally, I was hoping for my first ever A340 flight. We will spend a few days in Cairo, obviously taking in the Great Pyramids, and then we head off for a mini-excursion to Abu Simbel, which means we get to take a domestic flight on Egypt Air - woot! After that, we embark at Aswan on our 4-day cruise aboard the M/S Carnival (toilets included) to Luxor. We then spend two days relaxing on the beach at Hurghada before flying back to Cairo. All of this in 10 days.So, look forward to some Egyptian pictures, and of course, a full detailing of the Egypt Air experience.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"My wife has an inner ear infection"

Last night was the much anticipated Romanda Extravaganza - the wedding of two good friends of Diane and mine. If you follow this blog, then you have certainly seen and heard of the bride and groom - they are, for example, our Scituate traveling companions. The wedding itself has been in the works for just over a year, but the newly married couple has been together for about five years now. Diane and I played somewhat critical roles in the festivities last night - she was co-MOH and I was best man.

This was the third wedding I had been to as an "adult" - and the other two were relatively small affairs, none with the scope of this one. As such, I was pretty nervous about the best man toast for about two weeks leading up to the wedding, and certainly all of yesterday. My coworkers were kind enough to listen and read various iterations of my speech - which helped out a great deal because it was certainly not easy to write the speech.

You see, the groom and I share very strange obsessions that don't translate well to a mass audience. So, while the speech had to be about us, it also had to be written in a way that people would actually be able to understand it and perhaps get a laugh out of if.

I think for the most part, the mission was accomplished. My prepared speech was about 5 minutes long but when I started to give it I followed the cues from the crowd and since I could tell I was on a roll, I pulled a Jerry and ended on a high note.

For the benefit of the people that put with me during the entire process I will post the entire piece here because this is what I would have said in full to the bride and groom. I would have delivered the speech in full had it not been, like I said above, for the crowd factor. I suppose if you have done one of these or do public speaking regularly, then you probably know what I mean. In any case, here are my unabridged remarks:

Good evening.

I’m Nicolas, Roman’s best man. I met Roman about two years ago. Amanda and my girlfriend, Allison, the maid of honor, are high school friends, and it was
through them that Roman and I met and became, as Amanda likes to say, two peas in a pod. So I do not have any embarrassing stories from Roman’s childhood
or college years to share – which, now that I think of it, may have something to
do with why Roman chose me to do this speech.

Before I get into my remarks, a few thank yous are in order. To the parents of the newlyweds, Linda and Robert and Barbara and Walter, thank you and congratulations. Secondly, to all the bridesmaids, you have done a magnificent job helping the bride in the last year and you all look amazing. You are only outshined by the lovely bride, Amanda, who looks absolutely stunning – as opposed to Roman who just looks stunned. To the groomsmen – gentlemen, I don’t believe a
finer group has ever been assembled. Finally, on behalf of the newlyweds, I want to thank you all for coming – I am always amazed at how far people will travel for free food and an open bar.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am making this speech today at a significant handicap. Unlike all of you, I am sober. So I am going to follow some excellent advice I
received: stand up, speak up, and shut up.

Over the last two years, Roman has become a very dear friend to me. And I was honored when Roman asked me to be his best man. If you have seen us together, you would almost assume that we have known each other our whole life - that's how close we have become. Part of the reason we got along so well so quickly was because we share the same strange obsession with minor league players in the Houston Astros system, baseball umpires, Seinfeld, Jamie Seyh the Channel 10
sports girl – who sadly could not be here today, counties, New Jersey and towns
in Long Island. I believe that is probably the first time any of those words have been said in a best man speech.

They say that it is inevitable that at some point everybody meets their other half. The person that brings out their very best. Their true love, their destiny, the one person who without a spoken word knows exactly what is on your mind. There is somebody out there that you simply cannot live without, a person whose presence completes you. Roman, you are very lucky, because I believe you have found that person. And that person is me.

In fact, I remember the night I knew it was getting serious between me and Roman. We were in Scituate, at Amanda’s grandparent’s house, sleeping side by side on an air mattress. We stayed up late into the night naming baseball umpires. Joe West, Ed Rapuano, Dana Demuth. I knew then that he was a keeper. You all might understand why this speech was so difficult – our interests don’t really translate well to a mass audience. But when you know Roman like I do, you know that he wakes up each morning and kisses the ground that he does not live in Broome county, he prefers the Wendelstedt Umpire Academy, and that once we jointly named 57 of the 62 counties in New York while sitting at a Valley Cats baseball game. He is quite a catch, as you can see. Hold on to this one, Amanda.

Looking at you two stand together today simply reinforced to me, and I’m sure all of us gathered here today, how great you two are together. Roman, have found your complement in Amanda, besides the fact that she’s a Yankees fan – but that’s not a deal-breaker, I suppose. There are many mixed marriages like that in this area. I consider myself luckier than most best men because I am not just up here as the friend of the groom, but also as a friend of the bride. Amanda, you have become an equally important part of my life in Albany. I treasure your friendship as much as I do Roman’s. You certainly deserve a good husband. Since I am already in a relationship I guess Roman will have to do.

I know Amanda to be an incredibly hard working person – I think it is so admirable that Amanda recently became a teacher and works with high-risk
students. I also know Amanda to be a very caring person – she took care of
Roman this summer after he took in a little too much sun in Scituate and rubbed
aloe all over his body – that’s a lot of surface area, people.

On a more serious note, I am speaking here today as a friend of the couple, so I would like to say a few thoughts about friendship and marriage. If you listen to couples who have been married for decades, you often hear them describe their partner as their best friend. If friendship is what makes a successful marriage, then that bodes incredibly well for both of you. You make a beautiful couple. And I think you are both lucky to be coming home to such a great partner from this day forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, I had the honor to stand beside my two good friends today as they made the most sacred of oaths to each other. Please join me in wishing them all the love and happiness a couple can have.

To Amanda and Roman.

The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was very entertaining. They had a band and the food was terrific. The newlyweds will soon be off on their honeymoon and I will be taking care of Cos - their cat.
The groom got the members of the wedding party (pictured below) cufflinks with the logo of their favorite sports team. I was the recipient of Colorado State cufflinks, and they are really sharp.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy 60th MK

Yesterday was Mark Knopfler's 60th birthday. It's one of the few non-family, non-acquaintance birthdays that I celebrate.For those of you who don't know who he is, first of all, shame on you, and second of all, he is, in my humble opinion, the greatest guitar player. Ever. And that's a fact - not my opinion.

Mark is now a solo artist, but he is well known as (1) the lead singer/heart, blood and soul of Dire Straits and (2) the composer of the Princess Bride soundtrack.

I saw MK live at Red Rocks in 2000 during the Sailing to Philadelphia tour. Dire Straits was no longer together back then, but he still performed some of their classics. He started the concert with Calling Elvis, moved to Walk of Life, and in between did Sultans of Swing, which is my favorite song of theirs - and by extension the best rock song and guitar work in the history of mankind. Again, I'm stating fact not opinion here.

They did not perform the sometimes-controversial Money for Nothing, which I was a bit disappointed by. Little known fact: the music video for that song was one of the first to use computer animation and was the first video played on MTV-Europe.When I was younger, I was obsessed with Dire Straits - it was pretty much all I listened to. The first two CD's of theirs that I got, Money for Nothing and On Every Street, did not have any pictures of the band, so for a long time my main mission in life was to find out what exactly this Mark Knopfler character looked like. The first time I saw the MK was precisely in that Money for Nothing music video and my life was complete. After that I got my hands on the Live at the BBC CD and On the Night, both of which are full of pictures of the band. So every time I see MK, my heart smiles a little.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Northwest Mass. billboard

On our drive back from Camp Taconic last night, Diane spotted this billboard outside of Pittsfield.

It was late and after trying a few times to get a decent shot, this was the best I could do. The billboard shows a shot of passengers standing on the wings of the infamous USAirways A320 that crashed into the Hudson River, with the following caption: Cool under pressure. Preparation. Pass it on.