I like travel.  I especially like international travel.  Not because I’m running away from people in the US (what’s not to love here?) or because I’m in search of something better.  I just think it’s nice to get out once and awhile – way out.  Plus, now a good contingent of my friends are living in different countries, so seeing them means international travel.

The most major issue I have with travel (besides layovers and annoying travelers) is the whole visa thing.  Sure, I get customs, and regulation of imports and exports, and trade, and taxes and all.  It makes sense – we’ve got people and goods going back and forth between different governments with different standards and different fees, so there has to be some sort of regulating body between them.  But visas?  What’s the point?  To annoy me with paying fees, getting tangled in red tape, and publishing various personal details (such as my mother’s maiden name and my health conditions)?  Ok, maybe China and India need to employ as many people as possible through bureaucratic nonsense.  Still, they aren’t getting more money constant delays and annoying their potential visitors.  Please, just streamline the process and make us pay more.  I wouldn’t mind.  Really.

As an AA (Admin. Assist.), I have full responsibility to secure visas for a variety of countries for a variety of people.  It’s generally one of the more frustrating portions of my job (other than talking to people on the phone).  Part of this is due to the fact that my employers always apply later than they should.  Another part is that the visa service we’ve been using is somewhat uncommunicative.  If there’s a problem or they need more information, they generally don’t call – they just wait until we are annoyed with the delay in service and let us know about the problem when we call in frustration.  Given that I already don’t like talking to people on the phone, this does not put me in the best frame of mind.   Despite the fact that I’ve gotten into the habit of checking up with them every single day of the application process, I really don’t want to and don’t think I should have to.

Enter the new visa service I have been testing out, CIBT.  First off, most of their visa applications  can be done online, meaning I don’t have to use a typewriter or rely on my own slovenly illegible handwriting for applications.  Second, once they receive the application, I can check on its status online, without talking to a single person.  Third, they are genuinely helpful when you have questions.  This includes actually responding to phone messages or emails you might leave.  All I can say is ‘wow’.

10,000 BC and the Tain.

I don’t really go to movies and I don’t really watch TV.  Not because I don’t like movies or television, but because they are simply not a requirement for my life.  Most of the time, I’m too busy with other things.  Sure, I have a Netflix subscription, but it’s the one-at-a-time subscription, and I actually have to make time to watch it when it comes.  Nevertheless, I am oddly drawn to the occasional cheesy movie.  For example, the most recent film I saw in the theater was The Spiderwick Chronicles.  I know, it’s sad.  What’s worse is I dragged Mike with me too.

Still, I do have some sense of rationality when it comes to movies.  For example, I thought 10,000 BC probably wouldn’t be the best movie.  What were they thinking, really?  It’s not funny – were they trying to make things along the lines of Troy and 300?  Let me explain – if we’d had any epic prehistoric battles, they probably would have been passed down orally somehow.  Where do you think myth comes from, anyway?

But, if filmmakers are looking for more epic battles to sell, I have the perfect suggestion: the Táin Bó Cúailnge.  Not only does it have the requisite battle scenes between a variety of posturing heroes, the landscape of Ireland is beautiful, majestic, and a great place to stage really bloody battles.  Plus, if you add in some of the pre-story stuff, there’s all the other parts necessary to a good movie – sex and marital jealousy, magic, revenge, mythical heroes, and ‘honor’.  Plus lots of weird Irish place-names, which makes even the worst actors sound kinda cool.   But then, I’m sure somebody will probably mess it up, even if they get the perfect script.  I mean, look what they did to Beowulf.

White Orca – For real.

While claims had been made in the past regarding a ‘white killer whale’ in the north Bering and central Aleutians, these sightings were generally considered spurious.  No record of the sightings was every obtained, nor were scientists able to confirm whether or not the sighted animals were, in fact, ‘killer whales’.  This time, however, there’s proof.  An entire team of federal scientists saw this one.  Furthermore, there’s now both photographic and video evidence of the whale’s existence.

I appreciate the science that motivated early resistance to the myth of the ‘white killer whale’.   I’m even more appreciative of the explanation of the whale itself – the idea that it’s probably not a true albino, since it has brownish and yellowish markings.  Ok, I don’t get this.  How can an albino python have orange patches, and this guy with brownish ones is not a ‘true albino’?  Of course, they say albinos typically have other health problems and don’t survive long in the wild, and this one has probably been around since 1993.  But really?

Also, this is probably due to the article writer rather than the scientist, but there’s no such thing as a killer whale. Or, more formally, the animal known commonly as the ‘killer whale’ is not a whale at all – it’s a dolphin.  So this whole thing about a ‘white killer whale’ is completely a myth.