lovehate: The Immaculate Waffle

We often turn to each other and snicker upon hearing of the entreprenurial opportunist who sees Jesus in a Ruffle and sells it on eBay. We often split our sides at claims of Christ on a cracker, the Virgin Mary Rice Krispie square, or the incidental rendering DaVinci's Last Supper on a mold formation in month old cottage cheese. The sad truth is, it's quite obvious the person selling the product is not a "true believer". If so, how could these latter-day Merchants at the Temple bring themselves to sell what could very well be akin to the Ark of the Convenant?

Even those that consider themselves religious refuse to get caught up in the divine delectables, the holy hors d'oeuvres, the beatific breakfast sausages that draw so much closing story fodder on nightly newscasts while every "Dan Anchorman" wannabe echoes a couple of light chuckles as they go to the wide shot of the Action 5 News Team enjoying the joke. But someone's not laughing, because, on eBay, people are actually bidding on this stuff.

You may think yourselves above such digestible miracles, but even in your Doubting Thomas ways you may be an active participant in a cult-like subset of the Church of Food. 

Are you padding down from every hotel/motel room you've ever stayed in, before you've checked out, showered, or sometimes even dressed, to share in the bounty that is the complimentary hotel breakfast? At what cost in time and effort are you willing to buy-in to the word "FREE" while skittishly glancing around the sunroom to observe those shoving individually-wrapped muffins, sickly bananas, orange juice concentrate, and dishwater coffee down their sullied maws.

People will sacrifice hours of needed sleep and waste up to an hour meandering amidst the soma-like trance fields that are the hotel breakfast nooks. They'll bitterly complain later in the day that their road trip driving sessions are going too late into the night, forgetting the cultural Mecca they participated in that same morning at tiny round bistro tables made cozy by the warm glow and hum of microwave ovens.

But nowhere is this devotion to ritual so evident than people who will line up for hours waiting their turn for the malted Belgian waffle iron to be free. These are people who would never go out and just buy a freakin' Eggo once in a while, but instead shamble wearily in the queue, like breadline comrades in Iron Curtain Warsaw. They mutter obscenities under their breaths at the mother who spends double the necessary time explaining the process to her four year-old while trying to soothe the crying jags at not being able to fill a bowl with a generic Froot Loop substitute and throw them around the room. They secretly wish death upon the doddering senior who has to peer intently to decipher the instructions before calling over a companion to ask them what to do next. They seethe with rage at the person who isn't immediately present at the waffle iron upon the completion of their batter press session - to tired to yell, too polite to open it and steal it, to exasperated at the 38 minutes they've been standing in line while their partner has the kids packed up and is honking the horn outside the window, they grimace and direct elaborate sneers of disdain worthy of someone who molested a child.

This is what we've become. We want our ten cent portion of waffle mix SO BAD that we are willing to waste far more valuable time to attain it. We'll gladly spend $20 extra for a hotel room that doles out $5 worth of high fructose gluten in the morning. We're willing to shave hours off of well-needed sleep to rush down to mingle with the Morlocks so that one day we will be able to tell all our friends how worthwhile an experience our travel breakfasts were. Not that far from the devotion of the eBay divine potato chip purchaser, where they've traded money for a chance at getting closer to their creator, you've traded time to stuff your craw.

In the end, they'll have a chip that looks like Jesus... or more likely the Shmoo, while you'll have a twelve hour window to get to the next motel so that you can befoul the bathroom with what passes as pungent remnants of a "healthy" breakfast, grab a five hour sleep, and be ready to be down in the foyer for 9am the next morning, or at least before the last stale croissant is put away.

In the name of the Fritter, the Bun, and the Whole Wheat Toast, as it was in the beginning, finishes by 9:30am, checkout at noon. Alpen.

P.S. Across Canada on Canada Day, all Mandarin Chinese Buffets served free meals. Nice gesture. Kudos to the owners. And the cult descended:

"The restaurant's first customers for its Canada Day (Wednesday) buffet lined up at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, say staff who saw them then and let them in the next morning. Yesterday afternoon, a line of several hundred people wound around the plaza. Many of the 1,600 people who ate there yesterday waited for several hours."

Some people waited overnight, over 12 hours, in a concrete parking lot for a buffet that costs $16.99 - largely middle-class people, forgoing the better part of a day for a free meal.

thinglets: Mars Cheese Castle

mars cheese castle

Yes you may think I'm at the butt end of a telephone game experiment and purple monkey dishwasher has already been done. You wouldn't think that the 3 words: Mars, Cheese, and Castle could go together.

When I think Mars, I tend to think of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Marvin the Martian, or a delectable nougaty chocolate confection suitable for frying by Scots.

When I think of Cheese, I tend to think of pizza, sense of humor, and boxes of Cheez-its (which I think used to be called Cheez Nips when I was growing up, but maybe someone complained about racial intonations).

When I think of Castles, I tend to think of chess, Harold and Kumar, and Nathan Fillion.

What I don't do is think of the three words together, yet driving at a snail's pace o'er the construction-laden interstates approaching Milwaukee, Wisconsin yesterday, I saw what I saw (and my friend Steve can back me up) and that was a larger than life sign which read MARS CHEESE CASTLE.

Now, of course, I was intrigued, but not enough to stop the car from our 5mph pace and find an exit ramp... perhaps I was thinking of the unlimited possibilities of the concept of a Mars Cheese Castle with Marvin the Martian as sole proprietor echoing the best lines of the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch when I got pulled over in Waterford, Wisconsin at 1am for speeding.

I got caught doing 20mph over the speed while travelling at 45mph... you do the math folks. That means the speed limit was 25mph. I was passed by a turtle and a snail out for a late night stroll when I got back on the road again.

The cop was actually very nice. He gave me a warning but told me my Windstar's license plate had come back with a citation on a Crown Victoria. I thought I had the plates new when I first leased a van nine years ago. If I had to guess however, I'd like to think the previous owner of my plates got caught storming the Mars Cheese Castle which was ably-protected by the Swiss Guard.

I would also like to think that if one got caught by the guards, they would throw you in the Mars Cheese Castle dungeon with limburger carpets. The only way you could get out was to eat the only thing that wasn't made of cheese - headcheese.

thinglets: 5 Websites to Hit Before Going to Vegas



Pretty self-explanatory. If you want to know everything the budget traveller could ever need, is an awesome site. Breaks down hotel/casinos by cheapest eats, sleep, gaming, attractions and other deals. It also has a pretty nice selection of maps that are directly linked back to the properties themselves.


Although many of the changes in Las Vegas have slowed down due to the economy, there is still constant building down the strip. This site will allow you to view pics of the on-going status of all of the new mega-resorts going up (or blowing up) around the city. There is a fantastic color-coded map that's broken down by the umbrella resort companies. Again the map is all linked up and even shows all the proposed ideas for which proposals have been submitted. You can really see how Vegas will look in 10 years.


When you want updated reviews of new and existing properties is the place to go. Although the layout is busy, the category breakdown and tools (including RSS feeds for deals) give quick access to a ton of information. Even includes a section on how to play some of the most common games.


For a bunch of quick-to-read updates on almost all of Vegas' hotels, restaurants, and shows, has reviews going back to at least 2000. For most of the major properties there are several current reviews. They even boast an iPhone app that you can use to submit reviews while travelling up and down the strip... as though there wasn't anything better to do while in Vegas.


For all of you Social Media types, has now done over 200 weekly podcasts all about the changes going on in Vegas and takes great pleasure in ripping the websites of some of the big resorts. They also drop some knowledge on recent entertainment announcements of shows and other news concerning construction and everything else going on. A great on-going resource to listen to if, like me, you love the city and want to keep up on the changes through earbuds instead of tedious reading.

lovehate: Waiting in Style

I'll be the first to admit that I can be a pretty cheap bastard when it comes to most things. In ridiculous ways too - not at all consistent. I'll spend a bunch of time trying to get the best price for a room in Vegas, but won't balk at the hundreds of dollars I may lose in a session of blackjack. I will wait weeks for the right deal on a flight. Just recently I booked a short flight between Phoenix and Las Vegas as part of trip home after the holidays and waited two months for the price to go down from $59US to $41US... I probably lost money considering the Canadian dollar has crashed in that time.

What I have miserly with is the differences in decimals between gas stations. I almost always get my gas at one chain because it allows me to maximize my Flight Plan points which gets me a flight on a yearly basis. And this extra spending on gas (and dozens of other Point collecting techniques) has allowed me to fly - for the first time mind you - Air Canada's Executive Class to Las Vegas. More on this in a minute.

I arrived at the Toronto airport four hours in advance and, while this may seem ridiculous to many people, hoped I wouldn't have to endure repeated Bataan death marches of check-in, customs, carry-on scans, etc.. Much to my surprise the foot traffic at the airport was almost like a ghost town. With the amount of snow this area received last night, and expected to get tomorrow night, I thought there would be cattle calls of people wanting to get out ASAP. Apparently I was mistaken.

And so I find myself with near three hours to kill waiting for my flight to Las Vegas. Then I remember about the Executive Class booking. Such a booking has qualified me for admittance to the Terminal One Maple Leaf Club in the Toronto Airport. I feel like I've walked out an Amtrak station and onto the deck of the QE2.

Laid out before me is a quadruple spigot tap for pouring pints, about a dozen liquor bottles uptipped in shot positions, a cooler of every soft drink under the sun and a small group of people looking quite content. Not having a job where I can expense Executive flight upgrades, this world is foreign to me. It's almost too quiet. No announcements, sound-proofing, panoramic views of the runways... I feel like this is Eloi world that this lone Morlock has stumbled into. Mix me up a batch of soma-infused Freshie, I'll join the "club".

I never thought waiting at the airport could be so antiseptically-different from mixing it up with the embattled hordes jostling for room at the gates. Dear me, have I become elitist... maybe I'll come down to earth seven hours from now as I walk into my $50/night room at the Sahara on the Vegas Strip. I'll think back to the fond memories of free internet, free drinks, pomo stylings, and people who look too cool to care. Then I'll go down into the casino and see it all over again.

Tom Petty once opined, "the waiting is the hardest part." Surely he can get his agent to book him into Executive Class next time. C'mon Tom, you don't have to live like a refugee!

(PIC: not my Maple Leaf Club, but looks the same)

thinglets: Tanzania's Albino Genocide

It's alright to do a double take when reading this title... I thought I might be reading an article from the Onion, but at least one editor in Tanzania is convinced of the country's moral decay:

"At the moment, we are witnessed unparalleled killings of albinos. Strange enough, rather than seeing concrete action being taken to stem the tide, almost everybody from top down is complaining about the killings, but no political will has been manifested towards actively protecting the albinos."

Apparently albino skin is used by "witch doctors" in ritual medicine.

I born, raised and bred in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and I don't pretend to know ANYTHING about Tanzania. I present this more for its seemingly surreal nature in addition to what I'm sure are tragic events for the families involved. When I think about the juxtaposition between North American auto bailouts and government changes compared to albino hunting... I'm at a loss!

You can't invent this stuff - whaddup Earth?


thinglets: UN Human Rights Declaration Turns 60... and so?

Abuses persist as UN rights declaration turns 60 and this blogger wonders if anyone cares, if anyone is listening, if anyone can swat a few world leaders on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and say "NO!"

"In China, where the years since the declaration have seen enormous economic advances but iron-fisted one-party rule, several human rights activists were rounded up and arrested in the days leading up to the anniversary.

Police detained at least four activists after 300 intellectuals, dissidents and writers signed Charter 08, an open letter published online calling for democracy in China and timed to coincide with the celebrations.

In Zimbabwe, black-robed lawyers marched on Parliament and the Supreme Court to protest human rights abuses -- including the kidnapping of activists -- by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's beleaguered regime.

Meanwhile in Greece, young demonstrators rioted for the fifth straight day in protest at the slaying by police of a 15-year-old boy.

Other countries saw lesser violations of the spirit of the 1948 Declaration, such as in Iran, where state agents confiscated rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh's passport to prevent her from flying to Italy to receive an award."

UN Rights

thinglets: Trans-Atlantic Couch Potato

I'm one of those people that always looks for the best possible deal on anything I can find and, admittedly, I will often waver to the cheap side of the "value" scale. When I fly, even though I'm a big guy, I'll always think to myself, "You can suffer a few uncomfortable hours." I will say that after looking at the opulent flying conditions available via this Newsweek photo collection of luxury airlines, I'm more than tempted to fork out a few more bucks when flying. In most of the cases shown, however, I don't think a few bucks is gonna cut it... maybe for my budget, I can splurge on in-flight meal with a domestic beer.


thinglets: hotel hobbies

While I could never say that I'm a consummate world traveller, there is always a sense of appreciable adventure upon staying in a hotel for a couple of nights.  Tonight I'm staying near the Toronto airport at the Renaissance which, oddly enough, does not seem artistic in the least.

While in a hotel, there's always a few things I try to do:
1) Check out the restaurant/bar and lament if they don't have one
2) Throw the bedspread on the floor and never touch it again
3) See what channels I get
4) If I'm on an upper floor (6 tonight), spend a few minutes checking out the view
5) If I'm in a Hotel/Convention Centre, try to scam free drinks or meals by blending in.


lobby fireplace

I also always think of Marillion's "Hotel Hobbies", even though the lyrics paint a far seedier experience than I usually have. I imagine that, for someone whose job had them living in hotels on a weekly basis, they may able to identify with some of the experiences in the lyrics more readily. I just dig any lyrics that Derek Dick writes.

Hotel hobbies: padding dawns, hollow corridors.
Bell boys checking out the hookers in the bar.
Slug-like fingers trace the star-spangled clouds of cocaine on the mirror.
The short straw took its bow.

The tell tale tocking of the last cigarette
marking time in the packet as the whisky sweat
lies like discarded armour on an unmade bed.
A familiar craving is crawling in his head.

And the only sign of life is the ticking of the pen
Introducing characters to memories like old friends.
Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines,
A fever of confession a catalogue of crime in happy hour.

Do you cry in happy hour? Do you hide in happy hour?
The pilgrimage to happy hour.

New shadows tugging at the corner of his eye,
jostling for attention, as the sunlight flares
through a curtains tear, shuffling its beams
as if in nervous anticipation of another day.