Well, Jeff Putz Week started last night with a fun date to see a community theater show. Big River was the show. It wasn't terrible at all, though my date used to work professionally as a stage manager in NYC so she had some comments. :)
The point was that I wasn't going to go out of my way to find an iPhone after the 6pm release. And as it turns out, it would've been silly. The AT&T stores seemed to have limited quantities, because none of the nearby locations I called had any, but the Apple Store had many, many available. I arrived a little before 11am, and was in and out with the phone in ten minutes. I saw three sold while I was there. The buzz around the table where they had them out was pretty intense.
Before I talk about the phone, going to the Apple Store is always such a surreal thing. As I got in the queue to pick up my phone, I watched a college girl leaving with her parents, a MacBook box in her arms, hugging it like a doll. It's so odd that products can cause such a strange emotional response in people. Say what you will about the marketing... I still think that it's the quality of the product that makes people respond this way.
Any way, setting up the phone via iTunes, getting the number transferred and all that, went pretty smoothly and without incident. It took almost an hour for the number to switch from Verizon, not that I was getting any new calls. The only issue I had was that trying to sync my mail account reveals a bug. Because I use Google Apps for Your Domain, I have a popw.com account that goes through Gmail servers. iTunes, or whatever the sync mechanism is, decides to append my mail user name with @gmail.com, which is not correct. It's like it's protecting me to configure it right since it sees the Gmail servers.
Typing on the touch keyboard is weird at first, but after some practice it works quite well. The UI in most everything on the phone works pretty well. The weather and stock widgets are cool.
The most amazing thing to me is the mapping stuff. Pull your address out of the bookmarks or contacts, get directions to another address or contact, bam. There it is. Search for "brunswick oh pizza" and find where you can get it in town. It's just awesome. This is the killer app for the phone, hands down.
The Web browsing works reasonably well. I've been using strictly the EDGE connection instead of my local Wi-Fi so I can get a real feeling about how well it performs. It's cool to see sites that get you to the right place by default. Fandango bumped me to the mobile version, for example.
Phone stuff is like any other phone, but the contact management is nice. I like pinning a photo to someone, and seeing their smiling face full screen when they call. That's pretty cool. The "visual voice mail" is very, very slick.
I don't like that you can't send picture messages in the traditional sense, because I can't send to Facebook or Campusfish in the usual way. Aside from the mail bug, that's the only real issue I've had.
The build quality is very solid. The screen is indestructible it seems. Did you see the video where they put it in a bag with keys and shook it? Not a scratch. Here's the thing... most every phone I've touched since my 1999 Motorola Star-Tac has been a disposable piece of crap. While I believe that the iPhone hype is worthy, and that the device is damn close to perfect, I do believe it's a starting point. It's just that the starting point is so many light years from anything any phone manufacturer has tried thus far. What took so long?
I really like my new toy!
From an Engadget comment post...
I'm going to be interested in seeing how well Crapular's network handles the load from the on slot of iPhones soon to hit its network. My guess is this "speed bump" is to counter the iPhone.
So I was feeling kind of lame that I wasn't going anywhere this year for my birthday, but I'm more or less OK with it now. I know some people can do it, but to me travel is all about the memories you can make with someone. I didn't know Catherine all that well when we went to Vegas last year, but we had an awesome time.
So there are other things appearing on the agenda. First off, I'm buying myself two gifts. The first is an iPhone. I have a date tomorrow night, so I'm not going to be one of those assholes (*cough*Alex*cough*) who fights with geeks at the Apple store. I will at my convenience on Saturday call the nearest AT&T store and see if they're in stock and buy one then. Then I can blog from anywhere (which is probably Tyler's wet dream ;)).
I bought myself a new couch for the downstairs room. That's not so much a gift as it is something I've been meaning to do for a long time. It will change the feel of the room, and I'm not sure it'll go with the cheap red Target curtains, but we'll see. I'd like to replace my desk too, since it's kind of a cheap Office Max piece with laminate flaking off after six years of use. With such an awesome couch, I don't want to bring it down with a crappy desk, but that room will be a work in progress. The sexy micro fiber comes Thursday morning.
On Monday, the actual day, there are a couple of evening showings of Transformers in the next town. Maybe I can convince some of my local friends to go see it with me. It's more than meets the fucking eye, man... robots in disguise!
If tomorrow night's date goes well, I'm hoping to schedule another one at some point during the week. :) I like this one, so hopefully I won't scare her off.
Carrie, the CF-er with the Mazda, wants to go to Cedar Point for the 4th. Since meeting her at Chocolate Buzz, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that she's not crazy or an ax murderer, so she's gonna crash on my couch (not the new one!). I'm gonna see if I can get some fireworks shots, assuming the crowds don't suck too badly.
The later part of the week, I think I'm going to take some days off and have a coding mini-camp and see what I can churn out in a few days. I feel like I've been making some progress and writing inspired code, so I'd like to take advantage of that if it is in fact a trend.
I managed to make some progress on my little photo gallery project tonight. Of course, it'll eventually be used in several places, including here, but PointBuzz gets the first treatment. I've got five work items left, plus some style clean up, but it's most of the way there.
The tagging mechanism works pretty well. The concept of an "album" is less important when you have tags.
Not counting eating, hot tubbing and generally wasting time, I think I spent about four hours on this stuff tonight. That's not the kind of working speed I'd like, but it's getting there. I'm contemplating on taking two days off next week and doing a four-day mini-camp for coding. Really bang out some of the stuff that has been nagging me. If I really buckle down tomorrow and this weekend, I think I can make amazing progress.
The strange irony in all of this is that I decided to not beat myself up if I didn't feel like writing code. By not loathing myself, I'm happy, and when I'm happy, I'm motivated, and when I'm motivated, I write more code! Weird how not caring about doing it gets me to do it more in the end.
I read with great interest about Mike Arrington in Wired. He runs TechCrunch, a blog about consumer-facing Web start-ups, and he's a fairly influential guy. The article talks a lot about his revenue and power in Silicon Valley. It's a neat story, because he's capturing what mainstream media can't.
Of course these kinds of stories cause me to reflect a bit as a former mainstream media guy myself. Honestly, the power doesn't interest me at all, but steady revenue that can build wealth, generated on my own terms and not by offering services, is incredibly appealing. I should know, because I've built just such a business.
But that business is small. Really small. I serve coaster enthusiasts mostly with CoasterBuzz, and almost by accident I serve the amusement industry at large, which only has a few lame and slow dead tree publications. Mind you, it's a really small business overall, so the opportunity is certainly rather limited. I could probably squeeze out another couple of grand in annual revenue, but at the expense of a disproportionate amount of work. It's great for funding vacations and gadgets, but not so good for living off of. Expanding into the amusement industry specifically with a new brand could make even more (I don't care if it sounds arrogant, I could tear down the print rags), but I'm not sure the amount of work matches the output and expense. I have done the math on that one.
Which leads me to the idea that I'd like to start something new, with a more broad audience. I've actually got one idea already that I think I could bring together pretty quickly, and if I spend a couple thousands on marketing it, could bring in a user base. Of course, it's another community of sorts. I just need the time and balls to try it.
I feel like I need a retreat to somewhere quiet where I can focus on my own projects. Despite my best efforts to make home as comfortable as possible in that regard, I don't think it's an ideal place for me to really make stuff happen right now. The only true "distraction" is the comfort of home itself.
Well, the other thing that I worried about with the iPhone (the other being battery life) was what the data plan would cost. Gasp! It's $60 for voice AND data! I was expecting ~$40 for voice and another $30 or $40 for data. Not bad!
You ever had a day where you feel like you got up on the wrong side of the planet? That was totally me today.
I felt not right when I got up. I was pleased to see I lost two pounds this week, but I still felt wrong. This was made worse with shitty traffic and me getting to work late. That in turn made me resent being there. Then I read stuff on the Net that annoyed me (and I blogged). I also had a meeting that went to 5.
When I got home, I made some wheat pasta with and Boca faux Italian sausage. Put some killer real parm/romano cheese blend on it. It was fairly kick ass. That was a turning point.
Cranked out the podcast, which wasn't very good, but that's 79 in the can. I cleaned up a little, played with Cosmo and felt pretty good.
Then I started thinking about Luna, which made me sad again. I miss her. Despite being happy most of the time, I realize there are a lot of things that I miss, like one of my best friends, eating like a pig, coaching, and spending hours reading in the sun in the red room. I changed that missing stuff into an appreciation that I had those things at all, and I felt better again.
Things took a turn again when I took a phone call from a very upset friend and listened. I think my best developing friendship skill has become to understand when to just listen and not try to problem solve all of the time. I know from my own experience that there are times when I don't want advice, I just want a sympathetic ear. Considering how much I like to hear myself talk at times, I think that's important. Hopefully I'm getting better at that, because God knows I always want to fix everything.
So as I unwind and head to bed, the emotional ride is almost over. Tomorrow most certainly will be a better day.
There has been a fair amount of press regarding the indie flick Four Eyed Monsters, not the least of which has been about how they show the entire thing on YouTube.
So I watched it. There's a lot of what I would call "creative imagery in it," though you've probably seen most of it before. The two main "characters" are total narcissists and frankly not all that likable. So over time, if you believe the legend of the film, the meeting and exchange of their ideas and video eventually became the film itself. If you can stand two people who don't have the emotional honesty to have face-to-face verbal communication, I suppose you would like it.
The novelty here is not so much the film, which I think is mediocre at best, but that it was self-produced and marketed via the Internet, using podcasts, MySpace and whatever. That's all well and good, but at what cost? According to them, about $100,000.
Are you kidding me? Toward the end of the movie you can see that they did shoot some stuff on a soundstage with sets and what not, but for what? So they could put the shit on the Internet? That's not a gutsy move, that's just fucking stupid. They should have read Rebel Without A Crew by Robert Rodriguez first. He did his first movie for $5k, and now he makes movies with Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba.
As much as I look forward to shooting my own film, I have to tell you that I'm not really very interested in the indie scene. For all the loathing toward the Hollywood studio system, the indie and festival scene is, quite frankly, even more pretentious. While I would never say that the quality of art is measured by number of people who appreciate it, don't you want to connect with people as much as possible? I suppose that's hypocritical of me as a guy who says he'd happily die knowing he made a difference in a few kids' lives by coaching, but I just don't get that. I think that far too much art is fucked up for the sake of being fucked up, and I hate gimmicky shit devoid of good story telling.
It's all subjective, I suppose. I fully expect my first film to suck though, and I'm OK with that.
I admit that I haven't been keeping up on current events lately. The main reason is that I get upset over the stupidity of the world and the injustice that's everywhere. As much as I try not to let things outside of my control upset me, it's hard to just not care.
So I stopped watching the news, for my own emotional help. Generally speaking, it helps a lot. But I was looking around Digg today when I saw this story. Yes, you read correctly: The percentage of Americans that are dumb enough to think that Saddam had something to do with 9/11 has actually gone up.
Americans don't appear to give two shits about anything enough to really understand or get answers about things that matter. How one could procreate and not pay attention for their kids' sake is sad. But then again, that's why we elect morons to run things in Washington.
You can see then, the irony, that not being informed frankly will put me squarely into that same camp. Well, a similar camp, anyway. I'm still not ignorant enough that any of the reasons for war were legitimate.
I fear for our future.
The Jessie Davis search is over, and unfortunately, it ended badly. She and her almost-born baby were killed apparently by the father/boyfriend, who is also the father of her other child.
While making national headlines, it was obviously a huge story here, to the extent that it was dressed up as a news ratings grab that made me sick (sappy music and all). While the search efforts by the community were epic and wonderful, I absolutely hate how it was covered.
That said, the murder is a sad reminder that women will stay in abusive relationships even when the signs are obvious that they need to get out. This guy was a real douchebag according to most everyone that knew him. So what in the world made her stay, let alone have another child with him?
I've had so many female friends over the years that have been in or stayed in these kinds of relationships, and it strikes me as needless suffering. There are something about these men that can get into your head and make you believe that you're worse off without them. The thought that you could be without the guilt, the violence and emotional abuse just never enters their minds. What an awful way to live.
I guess the one good thing that will come out of the story is that it will bring some focus back to this issue, as it does every time a story like this comes out. And hopefully, this victim's death will give other women the courage to get out and live their lives.
Burt Monroy, the guy who is so clever with Photoshop that it's scary, is doing a show for Revision3 called PixelPerfect. I don't know how I didn't pick up on this last fall when they started. It uses the formula of presentations used on TechTV's The Screen Savers back in the day, only without the time constraints.
Anyone who uses Photoshop regularly should check it out. Very cool stuff. I watched the episode on a few of the new CS3 features and loved it. You can download from Rev3 or search for "PixelPerfect" on the iTunes music store to subscribe (free). Check it out!
Money kind of sucks, especially when you don't have much of it. Frankly, even when you have lots of it and you've got your shit together, it sucks because you have to figure out how best to manage it.
I got the doc Maxed Out from Netflix. I think it's exclusive to Netflix because it's through Red Envelope Entertainment, their indie label of sorts. It's basically about the debt problem in this country, and to a lesser degree, the government's debt problem. It's pretty interesting stuff. It paints the banks as the real bad guys, accusing them of having predatory lending practices.
For the record, I don't have a problem with debt. I've incurred lots of it. A part of me wants to say that I've been lucky in that things have frequently just worked out to take care of debt issues. Or maybe I'm just more responsible than I give myself credit for.
The movie makes me think of two things really. The first is that the government and our legislators have done a poor job protecting us from unethical and predatory lending practices. The second is that people simply aren't educated enough to understand basic financial principles. Of course, when your government is owned by the rest of the world, you don't exactly have someone to look up to either.
What I didn't like about the movie is that it practically encourages a fear of borrowing. There's nothing wrong with borrowing if you know you can pay the money back, and you can justify the added expense of the finance charges. I built a business that way, and God knows I wasn't even sure if I could ever turn a profit (I sure spent years bitching that I wasn't).
One thing the film did touch on that does bother me, is that people will make themselves car poor or house poor just to maintain appearances. That's just fucking stupid. From what I've been able to gather looking around my neighborhood, I know for certain that there are some people doing that. People don't need $30,000, gas guzzling vehicles. It's all status.
I'm at a real turning point now. My personal card debt is more or less gone. I'm really trying to put away and invest as much as I can. I'd really like to be giving more to charities, though I'm not sure which. I want to give more because I think I can while securing my own future.
Anyway, put it in your queue. It's a pretty cool movie. Makes you think.
So here it is, my first post from the deck this summer! It's 69 degrees (the temperature of love ;) sorry, couldn't resist), the sun is shining, there's a nice breeze, and there's Indian electronic music thumping from inside the house.
I like the outdoor rug. It really ties the deck together.
Granted, there's that little piece of me that wishes I was sharing this moment with someone special, but it's still one of the most relaxing moments I've had in awhile. I'm writing a little code and sipping water too.
I started my day by going to see Evan Almighty. I'm easily talked into seeing anything with Lauren Graham, sure, but it was a genuinely good movie. Much better than the loosely connected first movie with Jim Carey. It's really more about family, love and believing in something without getting too deep. Fun PG summer movie.
During the "first look" video they run before the previews, they showed the Travel Channel thing with Samantha Brown. Total celebrity crush on her. She's the best thing on that channel.
I'm on track to lose two pounds this week, even with the burrito I caved into having yesterday. The secret is to just not buy chips, cookies and other naughty things. If they're not in the house, I can't eat them.
I cut some video for PointBuzz last night. I gotta upload it still. Some pretty sweet B-roll of Maverick.
And that's this afternoon's brain dump.
I love Digg for a lot of reasons, but the problem is that stories and comments are not dug or buried for their merit, people do so based on whether or not they agree with it. For the comment system in particular, that makes it broken.
The new comment system demonstrates this very well. While I think the new system is pretty cool, some people hate it. If you read the comments on that story, the people who do like the new system just get dug down anyway, even if they have an opinion with merit.
There are a great many things to think about though in terms of what they've done here. Daniel Burka has a blog post explaining many of their design decisions. I think that for the most part he makes a great many compelling arguments. There's a constant battle in my mind about how to build a forum discussion. In real life, even a large group of people talk in turn, one after another. A linear style thread, like those found on most forum apps, is recorded this way but it's not real time the way a human conversation is. To compensate, that means you have to quote previous posts, and far too many people never bother to trim those quotes so you end up with a ton of repeat or distractionary data.
On the other hand, you can do the Usenet-style true threading, but the problem is that a conversation can then splinter off into a thousand different directions, which is, frankly even harder to follow. It can lead to many posts spread out by the same user too, often saying the same thing.
So I think that the linear threading is still better in most ways, but you still have that problem with quoting. I'm not sure how you solve that problem.
The thing I do like is the AJAX loading of posts. The theory of it at least is interesting, in that you have less database activity, less initially transmitted HTML and a more manageable page for the browser to render. I'd be very curious to know what the measurable impact of this is.
The online discussion has not really evolved all that much in ten years. I wonder now what imagination will lead us to.
I'm thankful that morons like this are finally getting what they deserve, from people who you wouldn't even expect.
At 9:41 p.m. tonight, the International Space Station flew over my house, followed by the Space Shuttle. The station in particular was pretty bright. If I knew they'd be so visible I probably would have busted out the HD camera and recorded it.
I guess the neat thing about it is that there were humans on those two bright things in the sky, flying over at 17,000 mph or something like that. Pretty neat!
It's killing me. I've been (relatively) good this week in terms of sticking to the plan and eating normally. I've even been doing some light exercise. But the craving for a Chipotle burrito is absolutely killing me. The way I get them, they end up being about 16 Weight Watchers points.
I feel doughy and I don't like it. My recent comfort eating combined with no coaching this year has not been good for me. I guess what motivates me now is not so much appearance but the memory that I got a little tired walking up stairs three years ago, and I don't want to go back to that.
I took the very expensive plunge and ordered Adobe CS Production Premium today, the bundle that includes Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Flash. It has Premier and Soundbooth as well, though I don't intend to use those. It finally ships in about a week, even though the other editions have been out for awhile. This is the only bundle that has After Effects, which I haven't used a lot since v5.5 or something, but it's definitely nice to have. I haven't bought new versions of Adobe products in about three years, but despite the ouch, they're certainly worth it, and I don't have Mac versions.
For now, I'm going to hold off buying Final Cut Studio 2. Perhaps if I actually cut and release something, I'll consider it, but I'll put that off for awhile. It's not as expensive as the Adobe stuff, but it does have a new version of compressor that uses multiple CPU cores, and a new app called Color that fascinates me. I could really screw up some video with that!
I finally got around to loading the video I shot on the Maverick media day, so it's fun to look at that and get it into Final Cut. I obviously don't use it enough, because I always forget what the hell the keyboard shortcuts are! I did plug in my Shuttle Xpress controller though, so it feels like tape. :) Good times.
I caught up on all of the On the Lot episodes, and sure enough, leaving the voting in the hands of the American public was a really bad idea.
Of the first three eliminates, the one deserved it, but the other two were pretty good, or at least certainly not in the bottom three. Then the first elimination out of five was a toss up, and the second elimination of five wasn't even freakin' close to being the worst. It confirms my earlier suspicion that the voting public does in fact have no taste.
Anyway, I have to say that some of these shorts so far are crazy good, in writing, photography and overall production. What I'm left wondering is how they'll do on longer stuff, which I assume won't happen until later in the competition. I really don't think the result of a three-minute short gives you much insight into what a feature-length show would be like.
As Mike once said, I love me some Target.
I went out to Geauga Lake today to knock out a few rides, but it was crazy busy with cars backed up and the main lot getting close to half-full. Good for GL, not so good my riding needs.
So I did the next best thing, and went to Target next door. Originally I was just going in for one of those exercise balls, because the massage therapist said it's good for working abs (and it comes with a video showing how to do those specific exercises). If that's what I need to alleviate back tension, I'm all for it.
From the sporting goods area I wandered into the outdoor seasonal stuff, and very nearly bought a three-foot Buddha. Fortunately $80 seemed too expensive to me. However, an outdoor rug for $68, while clearly all margin for Target, looked like exactly the thing I needed for my deck. It gets hot in the sun and I have sensitive feet!
Then I got to thinking about how great a new candle holder would be out there, so I got that too. I left the store $120 lighter than I started. Whoops!
But you know, I spend a lot of time out there these days, and I hope I can also entertain friends there now and then. The interior of my house if starting to really feel like my space, with furniture replacement or adjustments in every room. The exterior needs a ton of work, and I need to stop dragging my feet and call a landscaper to clean it up.
As an aspiring filmmaker who has yet to put even one minute of footage in the can (can you count how many film terms I just used even though I would never use film?), you can imagine that I'd be pretty interested in watching Fox's On the Lot. I've been recording it on the DVR but just started watching tonight. I'm hooked. It's kinda odd though that a show about filmmaking isn't aired in HD.
Granted, some of the situations are a bit on the contrived side, but everything I've seen so far was also designed to pressure people out to narrow down the field quickly. What worries me in the long run is that the public gets to vote Idol-style going forward, and frankly I think the American public has really bad taste in movies.
The thing that jumps out at me though with this short-form stuff is that I think it's almost harder to crank out something clever and entertaining that lasts two minutes than something longer. And yet, that's really the kind of thing I need to crank out to just get something, anything, finished and into the world, even if it sucks.
Yep, the creators of Homestar and Strong Bad turned down money from Adult Swim and Comedy Central:
A part of me thinks that's a little crazy, but at the same time, it also demonstrates that media is no longer controlled exclusively by big companies.
Still, I thought the franchise was fading in terms of popularity. I would've cashed out and enjoyed the ride.
Well, I can rest easy about battery life now...
The missing link is still the data plan pricing from AT&T. Should be interesting to see what they announce.
I'm so not motivated for work. I think I mentioned before that all of this good weather reminds me of the summer(s) I worked at home. Well, that has me going nuts here in this dark room with no windows.
The other thing going on in the back of my mind is that I'm so bored with my sites that I want to re-do them, which is actually a good thing if you ignore the fact that others likely feel the same way about them.
That powerful need for change is starting to creep back into my personality, and I think it could be destructive.
I was writing some code today for handling photos on various sites. I want to make it generic enough to work in most situations, but still have a decent feature set.
The result though really demonstrates how much better of a code monkey I was compared to a year ago. Working with our one senior developer at work in particular has been good for me. The new class library really abstracts the whole permission and user association plumbing, so I can use it against POP Forums, or this site, or PointBuzz, or whatever.
I'm going to first plug it into PointBuzz, just to see how it reacts with thousands of photos, and then from there I'll integrate it into a future version of CoasterBuzz, and hopefully put it here eventually.
I've been hungry lately for new music from some of my old favorites. For the most part, I'll be waiting for awhile.
Garbage is doing a best of album, and at the moment there is no word whether or not they'll record anything new any time soon. The best of has a new single, but I haven't heard it yet.
Dido is on track for a new album in September, thank God. She's on the three-year Garbage schedule. Life For Rent was a great album, that I found especially useful after the separation. The song "See The Sun Again" more than any other song resonates with my feelings in those summer and fall months of 2005. I especially love the live version. She is such a good song writer.
Jem is allegedly working on something new, but no release dates set for that one. She had a single from the Eragon soundtrack last year.
Mute Math isn't an old favorite, but they did the Transformers theme for the movie. That'll be sweet.
I haven't heard about Alanis doing anything new, but did see a picture of her with bangs lately that was hot.
Of course, most of these are artists I've been listening to lately. If I back up into the playlists a couple of years there are others I miss and don't even realize it. Music is the fabric of our lives. (Take that, cotton!)
Sort of, anyway. I went out last night, but today and tomorrow I have absolutely nothing to do at all, and it feels pretty awesome. Last time I had nothing to do was Saturday, May 19.
I'm not even sure what I'm going to do with all of this time! I'm hoping I can keep the windows open because it's so beautiful outside, but since we haven't had rain in weeks, the pollen is a little bothersome at times. I may write a little code, watch a movie, enjoy some sunny hot tubbing, and just otherwise be a slug. My house is mostly clean, too.
Mind you, I'm not complaining about the last several weekends. I feel very fortunate that I've been able to travel and visit people who are important to me, and go to various amusement parks. (Side note: For my troubles, they're giving me a free upgrade at the Royal Pacific to the club level in November.)
I need to get to that nothing right now...
Well, it's finally over, and the Cavs managed to drop four straight. They played up and down, but I also have to give a lot of credit to the Spurs. They're so good it's scary.
Still, it's the first time that we've managed to have something to be excited about in terms of Cleveland sports in a long time. Sure it was a buzz kill to get swept, but the conference final was fun to watch, and the rest of the playoffs were really fun to watch.
Going forward, I hope that Danny Ferry not only can retain the best, but attract the rest of the package. Time will tell. I hope we get another shot next year.
I dunno, the part about farting was pretty funny. Made me think about stuff though.
Last October I had a real wakeup call when I had the strange heart arrhythmia. The doctor chalked it up to caffeine, alcohol and stress, but the various tests at least gave me a lot of insight. Basically my heart is fine, blood pressure, etc., and I'm generally healthy except for needing to lose weight and drop the cholesterol a few points.
Since then, I've been making some better choices and being preventative where I can. I'm probably eating three times the fiber I used to. I even took an HIV test just so I would know for sure, even though I haven't done anything particularly risky in my sexual past. The true dieting has not gone all that well, losing only five pounds in the last two months, but I'm slowly finding the motivation to get it done. Two years ago was the start of the most impressive effort, and I can do it again.
All things considered, we dudes have it easy. Women need to start seeing the gynecologist when they're teenagers, and in their late 30's to early 40's start getting mammograms. That's pretty crazy. The worst we get is "turn your head and cough" and a probing finger.
One thing that tends to make you more aware of the fact that you pay taxes is having to do so yourself four times a year. Tomorrow is the quarterly estimate day, and I have to write out about $1,500 in checks to the feds, Ohio and Brunswick. I hate it.
Freeze once said to me, "You have to make it to pay it," but that doesn't make me feel any better. My accountant said she's worried that I'll teeter between two tax brackets, so she wants me to pay way more than last year. That sucks. At least I can write-off big purchases all in the same year, so when I buy all that new Adobe software or whatever, that's a deduction at least.
It was a lot harder when the only money I was making was from the business. That really stings. You have to draw cash from your business to live, and then you have to divert some of it to something that, frankly, doesn't seem worth it. I'd much rather divert it to that carpet I still haven't replaced.
I'm actually going on a third date on Friday, and God help her, I'm taking her to an amusement park. That's a real acid test to see if she can put up with my shit. :)
Dating the past six months has been a harrowing experience. I think I've met a total of 16 new people, mostly from January to March. None of those went anywhere. I'd like to write it off as them not being interested, but I guess I wasn't trying that hard either. I've just kind of been taking it in stride. I'm not willing to settle for less than what I want and need from another person.
My friendships are a little strange. I don't really hang out with my closest friends all that often, but when we do, it's like we worked together or took a trip last week. The Penton crew in particular is like that. I wish we talked more, but I realize we're all busy, and I don't feel like they're slighting me or me slighting them. I'm very thankful for those friendships, regardless of how frequently (or infrequently) we talk.
I am fortunate to have a few very close relationships. My two best friends are an hour and four states away, but I love that I can call them at any time to talk, even if I don't see them frequently. Catherine has become another top shelf friend too. We might not have been able to hack it as a couple, but we sure do a good job of being there to support each other.
Here's the biggest thing that I've realized about all of these different levels of relationships: You just have to let them be what they are. I know a lot of people are hurt or disappointed when a relationship doesn't fit what their ideal is, but any two people will have a unique dynamic that is what it is. Not more, not less. You just have to roll with that. The more time you spend worrying about how a relationship doesn't fit into your requirements, the more miserable it makes you. It's a fruitless thing to worry about.
Tell your friends that you appreciate them. That's how you get that love back.
All of this nice weather reminds me so much of 2004, when I took the summer off to write my book. I remember getting up in the morning and enjoying orange juice and toast on the deck around 10 a.m., checking my e-mail on the laptop and reviewing notes from the copy editors. I guess that's not slacking, exactly, but it is working at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home.
Well, despite some nice streaks, the Cavs just don't have a shot if their shooting continues to be as poor as it has been this series. You can't miss second and third chances and expect to win.
Oh well. I'm trying to stay optimistic, but digging out to win four straight is not easy.
eHarmony connected me with a nice woman a few weeks ago, or so I thought. Then late one night, chatting with me, I tell her I need to go because it's late, like 1 a.m. She tells me I'm just like a man to leave her. Ouch.
Then today she tells me that people with visible tattoos are generally not worthy of employment. Not the thing to tell a guy who doesn't even own a suit. Appearance that is unconventional is not an indicator of a person's ability. I'm not willing to roll over and advocate that cultural norm, leaving it unchallenged.
So she says it's like racism, you'll never be able to make it go away. Can you believe that? It may not happen in my lifetime, but like so many other problems, it takes everyone to get on board and solve the problem. I mean, should we have just allowed slavery to continue and blocked women from voting?
I just can't imagine living with that kind of attitude toward life. Without hope, why bother even getting up in the morning? Even at my lowest points in life, I've always felt that I could make change in my life and in the world.
She is so off my buddy list.
Three visits in six months. I wish they rewarded this kind of loyalty the way Vegas casinos did. Anyway, I need to knock out some negatives first.
First off, we used USA 3000 as our airline because it was dirt cheap. $150 round-trip, each. Not bad. But here's the problem: It's a relatively small airline that basically runs their planes in an eight to ten hour shift, ending up where they started. That means layovers. It also means that there's no real urgency if you're late, because ultimately the plane just needs to get back where it started. They had stickers on laser printer boarding passes that indicated your seat. That's high tech.
Racism is still alive and well in America. Our flight out was delayed because a passenger was "detained by security." Big surprise, the guy arrives and he's Middle Eastern and wearing a turban. But the TSA doesn't racially profile or anything. That's crazy talk. Then on the way back, during the layover in St. Petersburg, some Clevelander hilljack is going on over his cell phone saying how he'll never go back to Florida because those "damn Mexicans" can't speak English and don't deserve jobs in the US.
Anyway, I already wrote about the Blue Man Group show in another report, so I'll leave that part out. Catherine, Cosmo (the dog) and I got in Thursday evening with a fairly uneventful check-in at the Royal Pacific Resort. No Loews First perks for us because we got a great rate, about a third off, being annual pass holders. They did not give us our "Loews Loves Pets" stuff at this time, for some reason. They did say we could still use the gym (more on that later).
We had dinner at NBA City, since game one of the finals was on. Our Cavs did OK that first half. The food was pretty awesome. I swear it's the last place that you'd expect to find good food, but this was my second take on it. We watched the second half from our room, since Cath was fried from vet school exams ending that very morning.
Friday began with Cath wanting to use the gym, only they charged us for it. This eventually led to an argument at the desk with some manager named "Kiki" who was not helpful at all. They insisted that we would get no Loews First perks because we booked through a "third party," even though it was on the Lowes Web site. I looked around and asked if I was, in fact, at Universal Orlando and explained that I didn't care what the particulars of the arrangement between Loews and Universal were. I got my way, but it was annoying.
The other sticking point is that the card key lock on the door to the pet park was broken, so it was easy to lock yourself out. I called the first night and they didn't do anything about it, so I called a second time. The lack of attention to detail is exactly why I said they don't deserve their four-diamond rating, if they haven't lost it already.
Anyway, while Cath used the gym, I went to Pastamore on City Walk for a little breakfast, and read the NYT while watching people stream in. I met Cath at Islands of Adventure at guest services, as she needed to get a replacement annual pass card, since she lost hers. First replacement was free, which was a nice perk. For some reason they did not issue another plastic card, just a paper one. Then we had to contend with their almost non-functional finger scan thing. They need a better system.
Tip: Look for a gate attendant using a hand-held scanner. These don't require the finger scan, and therefore move much faster.
Every time I walk in Port of Entry, I just get a little giddy. I don't know what it is about that place, but I could spend every day there. We started with a ride on Fire, since we didn't do it December. The crew was really hauling ass (two trains each side), which was the first time I had ever seen any urgency there. That was nice to see.
We hit the Sinbad stunt show next, which seemed to have more pyro than the last time I saw it. The female lead has some really scary abs, but I like that she's not the helpless damsel in distress. Fun show for sure. The kids love it.
A ride on the Jurassic Park River Adventure put my fears at rest that they were slipping in terms of maintaining the theme to the rides. Last time I was there, it seemed stuff was just not all there, but the park overall surprised me with details I hadn't noticed before. All of the dinosaurs were present this time, and the only thing I missed was the dropping Raptor container at the base of the lift. There were sparks coming out of the Raptor paddock, which I'd never seen before. The T-Rex was in all of her spectacular glory. Two thumbs way up. What a great ride.
We had lunch at the Comic Strip Cafe, which isn't spectacular, but like its counterpart in the studio park, has lots of options. It's one of the better values too. I'll also mention here that soda is a buck less or more compared to the Cedar Fair parks. I find that pretty ridiculous.
Spiderman was next, and I noticed subtle details there too. There was one of those rabbit ears things that electrical sparks travel up as we transitioned into one scene. The steam hits were extensive and small lighting details were in place. Again, it just felt like everything was spot on.
Now for a little bad news, The Incredible Hulk is in the worst shape I've ever experienced. Props to the crew, running three trains and dispatching quickly, but the ride is beyond rough now. I still think it's the springs or loose wheel padding or something. Sit toward the back, and through the loop or other straight track, you can see every car shimmy around laterally in a very violent way. You can't ride defensively against that kind of roughness. I really don't get this, because it's not like they don't have another B&M ride in the park. It's basically the same bogey, so whey is it so poorly maintained? It's such a great layout and a fun launch, and it's lost on the torture of the violent shaking.
That was pretty much our first day. We went back to the hotel to clean up a bit before the Blue Man show. I missed another Space Shuttle launch too, because we were in the show. I missed one when I was there in December just because I didn't know it was happening. Sigh.
We ended Friday night at the Hard Rock Cafe. The food is kinda average still, but there was no wait for a change, and I do enjoy the atmosphere.
Saturday was a very casual day, starting at Universal Studios. It was damn hot, 91 with high humidity, but with so many things indoors, it wasn't terrible. I still enjoy E.T., Men in Black and Jaws. We walked right on to Revenge of The Mummy with our room keys, and the main queue was nearly filled. That's why I stay on property. We also did the animal actors show, which was really short this time, presumably because of the availability of the talent.
Back to the hotel, I chilled with the dog, Cath used the gym again. After that, we headed over to Portofino for massages at the spa. What an amazing and beautiful hotel! I've never paid for a full blown massage before (and didn't this time either, technically, since Cath bought it in return for buying the dog's plane ticket). It was AWESOME. Beautiful facility, they go out of their way take care of you, and Melissa, the massage therapist, well let's just say I'd do anything she asked for. She was amazing. I'd really like to try out the hotel next time, if I can justify the cost, and I would really like to get another massage.
We never did make it back to the parks, but we did have dinner at Maragritaville, and saw Oceans 13. I have to say that this is still the best way to enjoy these parks. Just block out several days and wing it. You get to skip lines staying on property, so there's no rush at all.
We did go back into IOA Sunday morning prior to departure. Got a ride on Ice in the front seat, but we were incredibly disappointed that they opened with one train each side. The line crawled. I have no idea why they'd run so few trains. At first I thought I was being a whiny enthusiass, but others around us were making the same observations. It was most unfortunate during a weekend where, operationally, they were doing a good job.
We also snagged a ride on Cat In The Hat, and bought goodies at the Universal Store using the pass discount.
The weekend winded down with some video games at the hotel, "beach" time, and some time wasting in the lobby. A thunderstorm rolled in later in the afternoon and caused some flight delays.
Overall, it's always nice to visit the parks. I'm just tired of being disappointed by the Royal Pacific. On the other hand, I was very impressed with the spa at Portofino. I think the parks are paying stronger attention to detail again, and that will most certainly serve them well as they expand with the Harry Potter stuff.
By about 10pm last night, in the air somewhere over Georgia I suspect, I realized why I actually prefer traveling back home from a vacation in the morning. It's like your whole day is wasted in the process, with early check-out times and sitting in the airport and other such nonsense.
I need time to decompress. I have a date tonight, but it's right after work, so I can spend time with myself afterward and just chill out.
And write a trip report from Universal. :) I'm a dork.
So here I am... the third theatrical show and sixth Blue Man Group show overall. I was pretty nuts about the Megastar tour, though less enthusiastic about it without Tracy Bonham, and have such a mixed feeling about the stage shows. Still, at $55 a ticket, I think it's a steal for Orlando.
The Sharp Aquos Theater is actually one of the former Nickelodeon sound stages at Universal Studios. With no balcony, it's a pretty flexible space to build something like this, and it's surprisingly comfortable and acoustically not entirely offensive. The ceiling has no treatment at all, and I seem to recall the motorized lighting grid as being something they talked about on the Nick tour way back in 1990. If they got to reuse that, good for them. Most of the guts and electrical work was hidden by hanging fabric, which probably helped with the sound. The fun part about the restrooms is the PVC and chorus composition singing the word "bathroom!" over and over again. I giggled while peeing.
Totally random thing: Two guys sit next to us, one of whom is the president of Universal Orlando. The other guy his godson or something like that. What we learn about this is that the production is put on by a jointly owned company, "Uni Man" or something like that. Essentially, this company is licensed by BMG, the New York-based company, to do the show. I think that perhaps the founders made some concessions in this arrangement, since they were seating people mid-show, selling beer stadium style before the show, etc. Simply put, it's not quite the theatrical experience, and that's OK since there are a lot of kids and families.
The stage is loosely based on the Las Vegas show, with smaller lofts for the band and less room for the central video screen. They still manage to use it all as projection surfaces. The band is scaled back as well, with one less guitar/string player and one less percussionist, I think (saw Vegas last about a year ago, so I may be wrong).
If you've seen the Vegas show at The Venetian, you've mostly seen this show. Some of the "big" moments have been eliminated (the airplane gag) and some have been added (the strange ear thing). Drumbone, the Cap'n Crunch and Twinkie things, the paint and marshmallow toss, the three card decks, etc., are all there. The guy sitting next to us said that one guy is a "veteran" from another show, while the other two are new. They did an outstanding job overall, and there were only a couple of technical cues that were missed or wrong. I was particularly impressed with how they dealt with some surprises from their Twinkie dinner volunteer.
When I thought about it, the absence of "Rods and Cones" is probably because of the smaller band, which when I listen to it has two string parts or three, though I don't know which parts. They still had a guy playing the chapman stick and guitar or whatever that string thingy is that sounds like a synth, but I count three string parts in the recording. Instead, they do this other neat thing about animation using what I only assume is a see-through LCD or something, where they smear shaving cream. Combined with projected images, they work into the bit with the tribal dancing zoetrope things. Not quite the moment that "Rods and Cones" creates, but still very cool.
One of the other signature pieces from Vegas is the "Utne Wire Man" bit. Instead of building with the various wire images on the screen, the focal point from the beginning is the Blue Men with their LED signs. I'm not as fond of this because it gets almost too distracting from the music. However, what more than makes up for it is how they combine the stage version with the one they used on the Megastar tour, complete with the five air poles and the "Stomp your feet/clap your hands" samples. They really quite flawlessly combined the two versions of the song and made something even better. Well done.
I forget the name of the song they do when they take the guy backstage and show video of him being swung around upside down (video looked awfully familiar ;)), but the kick of the giant bass drum was insane. You could feel it in your chest. Really great thump!
The other two big musical pieces are "PVC IV" and "Chant Jam." The arrangement on "PVC" is a little different, though I couldn't put my finger on why exactly at the time. "Chant Jam" is pretty spot on and like speed in Blue Man terms. That's a song that benefits from an extra drummer, but it still sounded very amazing, and fit very well into the paper finale.
The paper finale is insane as ever, though they're using a weak mix of "I Feel Love" instead of the KLF song used in Vegas. I don't think it's as strong an ending. The energy in the theater, however, was far and way higher because of the kids. What kid wouldn't want to be a part of a mess like that?
They actually do a short encore after that, with more paint on the drums, and then disappear into a projection of DNA strands. Definitely a better way to end, kind of easing you out the way they eased you in.
There was a kid there wearing a Megastar tour T-shirt as we were leaving, and his dad asked him what he thought of the drumming. He replied it wasn't as good as the other shows. Reminded me of a coaster enthusiast so obsessed that they fail to enjoy what they're obsessed over. Dork.
So here's where I am on my Blue Man Group fan thing. I saw Megastar three times, Vegas twice, and then this one, all since March of last year. This show, with $55 tickets, is a steal. Great value, great family entertainment. All of that said, I think they need to consider a slightly different direction with the stage shows.
In Vegas and Orlando, you're competing with Cirque du Soleil, and on top of that Broadway style shows. With Megastar touring and a half-dozen stage shows, a whole lot of people, probably millions now, have seen Blue Man Group. I understand that there's a certain amount of artistic expression true to the original New York show that they want to maintain, but I think the emotional response and connection is stronger with the touring shows because of the vocal music. Sure, it distracts from the blue guys, but it's something deeper, I think. I think it's time to consider integrating vocal music into the stage show.
I'm sure the purists would think I'm full of shit, but that's how I feel about it. Next time in Vegas, I'll see Phantom again or a Cirque show, but BMG is starting to get very been-there-done-that. I want to see "The Currant" or "Up To The Roof" some more. That's more of a gee-whiz moment for me than eating cereal, even if it's not as funny.
Overall though, I loved the show. It's exactly what Universal needed. The pricing is right, and the sub-1,000 theater is fairly intimate. Selling the show as an upsell to theme park tickets is also a no-brainer. I think they'll enjoy a nice long run there.
I don't even own a Wii, but Gonch gets a shout out for this one...
One of my biggest struggles in the last few years is that, outside of my normal day job (and I still can't believe I have one that I actually like), is that I don't seem to deliver anything. When you run Web sites that people get a lot of use out of, and they stay the same for four or five years, they feel stale.
The issue is one of agility. Simply put, I didn't know how to stay agile four or five years ago (and I mean "agile" in a last century way, as in able to move quickly, not in a development methodology sense). Back then, I wasn't writing loosely coupled components that were easy to glue together. My efforts at source control were half-assed at best. Frankly, my skills were less developed.
There is a pretty good, evolutionary reason for this state of affairs too. If you think back to 1999, when I first started to write code for a paycheck, we were largely in a script world. Perl and ASP (the old kind) were what people were using, and this thing called PHP started to get popular. Every kid and 20-something with a computer instantly recognized there were neat things you could do on the Web with a little bit of code.
And so a generation of developers hatched with an unprecedented lack of educational background. To this day, 75% of the people I work with went to school for something else (double major in radio/TV and journalism here!). Script was easy to learn, and even easier to use in away that was totally incorrect. Object-oriented programming? Seemed like voodoo to me.
But ASP script monkeys like me, who wrote really bad scripts, got laid-off and had lots of time to learn this new .NET thing. It was a struggle I think for a lot of people, myself included, but I got up to speed pretty quickly. Realizing that people like me were not being spoken to, I even wrote a book.
But with a lack of formal education and at least some background on evolving development techniques, design patterns and general computer science, we weren't writing the best stuff, that's for sure. Fortunately, the servers running our applications were plenty powerful enough to compensate in most cases.
Now I feel that we, the people who hacked our way into the profession, are catching up. We might even be moving ahead of the academics because we creatively look at things differently. Where we may get held up is in our legacy.
I have a lot of code baggage, so to speak. I have photo library code running on at least three of my sites that is totally inflexible. It sucks. I've written something new that I really like, but it's hard to do any kind of wholesale change because I'm dealing with old legacy systems, incomplete code bases, and worse, .NET v1.1, the old stuff. Snapping things in is a little harder than I'd like.
I have a reasonably functional forum app ready to go, but can't use it in my sites until the sites themselves are changed. It all feels so close and ready to go, but I can't get out of the legacy quickly enough. I could be tweaking and optimizing every little thing that a user responds to, if I could only completely make the old stuff go away. I'm ready to cut the cord, I just need to let the birthing begin. Then I'll have the agility I seek.
I got around to watching the season finale of Scrubs tonight. J.D. has a love child on the way, while Elliot is about to get married. Both have freak-outs feeling like they've uncontrollably landed in these relationship situations, and aren't sure they want them. They're lying on a bed in the on-call room, begin holding hands, and then the screen goes black.
That kind of story has always interested me, because, well, I've been there countless times. Going all the way back to high school, there was always "that girl" who was perfect for me, but there was some circumstance that prevented it from being so.
It's a classic theme that deals heavily with the idea of fate and destiny. It also approaches something I had not though of before, in a deliberate sense anyway. We are often powerless to enter into these relationships, because you don't get to make the decision on your own. There's another person who has a say in it. However, we always have the power to exit a relationship, at any time, or the other person can decide for you.
Think about that for a moment. That means that if you're really looking at things from a free will standpoint, you only have 25% of the power in a relationship at any given time. That's pretty daunting.
Still, you can draw some interesting conclusions from that realization. In the situations that are most harmful, where you are in a significant way not being served by a relationship, you can leave. Having the courage to do so is something else entirely. That's clearly where the start of next season's Scrubs has to go.
This is yet another realization that I find empowering. Maybe it's questionable about whether or not you can choose who you can partner with, but you sure can choose who not to be with. It requires courage all around, to let go of what isn't good for you, and at the same time, take a chance and trust to follow what is. It's the very decision that has to be made in every relationship.
And what do you know... another coming of age story that fascinates me. There's a screenplay in there somewhere.
I'm not sure I can really pin down the reason, but I've been really anxious the last week or two. I haven't been sleeping well, and when I do have my typical nasty dreams (had a variation of the nuclear holocaust dream, only with meteors instead of bombs). I find myself eating like a pig because I think it makes me feel better. I get little bouts of panic too and I'm not even sure why.
When I left the house this morning, it was strangely very cool, even fall-like. That subconsciously brought me to last fall, which led my fingers on the iPod to Tracy Bonham's Blink The Brightest, and that's what I listened to on the way in to work.
And pretty much like that, I felt at ease, and relaxed. Music can very much be like an old friend that comforts you with familiarity. When it's music that good, it even makes you smile. Yeah, I cry a little when I hear "Shine," I'm so emo! (The teenage stereotype, not the punk rock ethos.)
This was the first event that I really felt didn't turn out the way I wanted. With all of the others, and we've had quite a few, things came together quickly and we had a great group of attendees. What I think I can attribute to turnover in the group sales department meant that everything was a little too last minute, so we didn't get to properly promote the event. Dealing with tickets and such turned out to be problematic as well.
That experience leading up to the event put me in a bad mood of sorts. Fortunately, Catherine was there to kick me in the nuts (what are ex-girlfriends for? ;)) and I was in the park for all of ten minutes before I was happy to be there.
The crowd was enormous. It was 90 degrees with very high humidity. Still, we were determined to at least ride certain things, with a break in the middle at the hotel. Cath needed to study, I just needed time to sleep and let my brain rot a little. I feel like I haven't had any time to just do nothing in about three weeks. It's not that I don't like doing "stuff," it's just that eventually you need to catch up.
Upon entering the park, and getting passed a really salty old bastard of a security guard at the bag search, we were a little worried to see Comet's queue totally full. We went up the hill to check out Great Bear, and it was looking like 45 minutes or more, so we went back down to ride the only thing we missed last year (aside from Roller Soaker), the Sooperdooperlooper.
The line was short, and the crew was fantastic. Granted, when you have no seat belts or shoulder restraints to screw around with, it's pretty easy to move quickly. I'm always pleasantly surprised at how well Schwarzkopf coasters age. I've never been on one that I didn't like. Interesting chain and linkage too between the station and the lift. Great ending.
After battling around through the crowds, we decided that mid-day escape was in order. We stopped to pick up a bag of those kettle chips, and they were fantastic. Greasy as hell, but yummy and fresh. Not recommended on an empty stomach, by the way.
I napped in sweet air conditioning. It was awesome. Comfort Inn there at 422/322 is fairly nice. Would've been nicer without the hordes of kids staying there. (Insert "get off my lawn" comment here.)
We got back to the park just in time for dinner. While the "chicken breast" was definitely chicken, and may have contained breast meat, I think calling it that was a little bit of a stretch. Still, it was yummy, and I'm not complaining. The salad and fruit salad even seemed to go over well. Apparently they "forgot" to bust out the ice cream at first, but we got hooked up, and enjoyed the novelties.
It rained for a little bit, so we had some time to be social in the small group. Cath and I adopted Carrie to ride and headed toward the newer part of the park.
First we went to Lightning Racer, and it was nice and wet. Had a great lap on Lightning. More on that later for the ERT. What I was most interested in was riding Wildcat with the new Millennium Flyer trains. The difference was fairly dramatic, but it was still a little on the rough side in places. To be honest, the "math" of the ride isn't quite right to create the magic that Racer or a newer ride like Renegade creates. It's still a lot of fun though, and very comfortable with the new trains.
Because restroom talk is funny, the girls mentioned that the restrooms in this area of the park were not air conditioned.
We headed down to the middle of the park and did the Reese's eXtreme Cup Challenge, and received no candy at the end. I was disappointed. The theme of the ride still strikes me as super stupid, but the vehicles for this dark ride/shooter are easily among the most interesting. My gun was broken again and I couldn't score. Someone at Sally hates me I think.
We all agreed that we needed to ride Great Bear, so we decided to just deal with whatever line was there. I was disappointed that Coal Cracker, the log flume, was not open. On a day like this, it would've been perfect. This is one of the last truly great log rides of the 80's.
Last year, Great Bear had the only really lame crew in the park. This year's is much better, and the line moved fairly quickly. Great Bear doesn't seem to get a lot of love, but among the B&M inverters, this one is so balls-out intense start to finish. It has no slow point. I love that ride.
We stopped for Boardwalk Fries, and I was shocked that they did in fact offer a bucket size. The three of us shared a large instead, went inside for A/C, and talked about life, love and career. Good times.
Carrie wanted a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl, but it really didn't do much spinning. We were actually having a serious conversation most of the ride. It needs to be lubed up or something.
We finished on Comet. As someone mentioned later, going up the lift, it's crooked. Like trick track on the lift. And the cars flex as it climbs. That's sweet. Cath and I were in the front seat, Carrie in the second. I was blown away by the amount of air time that thing made. What an outstanding ride. If the line was shorter I would have loved to do it again.
Unfortunately, the crew sucked. When a guy on the platform is signaling to buzz the bars open, or let some stuck people out, and the op at controls is too busy flirting and laughing with other crew members, that concerns me. Also concerning, on all of the coasters, actually, is that they don't watch the train leave. Most of the parks I can think of, they watch the train leave to see that every restraint is in place. That doesn't happen there.
The group reconvened at 10 by the catering pavilion. There was no security officer there to greet us. Fireworks started. We waited some more. At about 10:15, an officer comes down the hill, says nothing, and sits on a bench. Cath goes up the hill to ask the Storm Runner crew what's going on, and they say the security guy will escort us.
A little after 10:30, a guy who I assume is a rides supervisor, tells us they've actually opened Lightning Racer and Wildcat for us, but Storm Runner "won't be running" for us. Naturally, the one thing we held off on because we thought we'd have it for ERT was down.
While annoyed by that, it didn't ruin my night or anything. I bypassed Wildcat for Racer, and ended up doing 11 total laps on it, in the winning car every time. The crew was very enthusiastic, and everyone seemed to have a good time. After some moving around, I discovered that Thunder offers the better ride, especially in the front. The top of the first turn-around absolutely tosses you up and out to the right. Awesome stuff. I had the chance to ride with a number of different people and really enjoyed myself. The smell of chocolate and the beautiful lighting on the ride really made for a great enthusiast moment.
Overall, I had a pretty good time, even if I was a little burned out on work and travel. I hope that if we do look into an event there next year, that the group sales folks are a little more on top of things.
Between driving out there for a roller coaster or two, visiting Cath's family last year and volleyball tournaments, I've driven the PA Turnpike I think four times in the last year. Every last time, I can remember being totally wiped out on the drive, especially the coming home part.
If it wasn't four hours of the trip, I think it might be scenic, with the mountains and tunnels and such. But there's a lot of hard lefts and hard rights. It's not like driving through Michigan where you can pretty much just drive on auto pilot.