Monthly Archives: August 2006

A bright, shiny new Worldcon

The con started today with a somewhat unusual opening ceremony — the first episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, in tribute to the late Frankie Thomas, followed by the usual silliness. Jeff missed it, since he and his friend were at Disneyland, where I think he might have had enough Disney for this trip. I say might have, rather than had, because at a party this evening, he showed interest when he heard that some other teens were going to Disney tomorrow — but only some interest.

We deviated from our Downtown Disney meal plan; breakfast was at Captain Kidd’s again; lunch was at California Pizza Place, which is a small pizza restaurant in a strip mall of small restaurants at the corner of Katella and Harbor, and was everything one would expect of a restaurant at that location (cheap, non-toxic, and fast); dinner was at the Grand China Restaurant on Chapman, which was an OK but not at all distinguished Chinese restaurant a mile or so away from here. The con restaurant guide is long on listings but short on judgements, so we’re on our own.

We spent a while in the huckster room/exhibit area after lunch, meeting friends, visiting the bid tables, and wandering. At one point, I found myself explaining the change in the Worldcon bid leadtime from two years to three and then back to two — if I’m not careful, I may find myself at the Business Meeting one of these days. But that wasn’t a danger today; instead, we went to “James T. Kirk: Threat or Menace”, which was enjoyable but deviated from the topic (and a good thing it did).
Here’s tonight’s party report:

Google party: lots of schwag, but the shiny Google pins were gone before we got there. They’d clearly raided the local Trader Joe’s, going for the dark chocolate as well as other goodies. They claimed to be interviewing, but everyone was welcome — and all attendees get free searches on Google.

Hollister in 2008: This was the bid party to hit, if for no other reason than my name on the wall of fame. Lots of Casa de Fruta goodies, not enough space for all the people.

KC in 2009: If you were hungry, this was the place — smoked meat and KC BBQ sauces, plus other goodies (Trader Joe’s struck again, too).

Denver in 2008: A nice selection of Colorado beers (after a very enjoyable High Tea during the afternoon), plenty of other goodies (including a chocolate fountain and ice cream floats), and the right date for Worldcon 2008. Recommended.

Chicago in 2008: Hot dogs, hotel info, and a letter from Da Mayor.

Columbus in 2008: Sam Adams, a sheet cake, good conversation, and a letter from the mayor.

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It was bright and shiny once…

This time, I mean Star Tours at Disneyland. That was our first port of call after breakfast at Mom’s Captain Kidd’s, just across the street from the main entrance (same owner, same menu, same food, just a different name…hmmm, do you think they could be trying to play on the popularity of Pirates of the Carribbean?).

Star Tours was, as ever, itself. Same jokes, same special effects, same everything — but shorter lines. Maybe it’s time for a remake.

After Star Tours, we did the rest of the Big Three at Tomorrowland. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience was also the same as always, except that they’d gotten rid of the amusing preshow and replaced it with a completely lame Kodak “feel good” commerical. Space Mountain was new and renewed and dizzying — but I thought it was the worse for the loss of the old amusing FedEx preshow and commercials.

We also visited Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Indiana Jones before lunch. The way they have the FastPass set up for Indy is bad — first, it forces people on the regular line (like us!) to stay outside in the heat and the sun for a longer time, and second, it means that you rush through the interior preshow instead of enjoying it.

And the heat was getting to me — the boys went on Big Thunder, but I just wanted to find a cool spot (I settled for shady). Then we went in quest of lunch — which meant Downtown Disney. This time, we hit the La Brea Bakery; I didn’t want anything but icewater for a long time, but I eventually recovered enough to eat Jeff’s salad (someone had to do it) and half of Diane’s sandwich (all in the interest of keeping portions reasonable, though half a sandwich wasn’t quite enough for either of us).

After lunch, we went to California Adventure, where we picked up FastPasses for Soarin’ Over California and then saw MuppetVision 3D (one of my favorite attractions at either park — we didn’t get to see the whole preshow, though, which was a shame), Monsters Inc (as promised, a slow cabride — the best part was the signs in the line; I though the homage to Ray Harryhausen was a nice touch), and It’s Hard to Be a Bug. Jeff also did California Screamin’, but the rest of us passed. Then we hiked through the Grizzly Mountain area and saw Soarin’ Over California — pleasant, nicely-scented, and cool. And that pretty much took care of California Adventure’s attractions. so we returned to Disneyland to brave the line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I haven’t seen either of the movies, so I didn’t find the additions compelling, but I did think that projecting on mist was a nice trick.

We returned to Downtown Disney and Catal Uva Bar and Grill for dinner, skipping the wine this time around, but going for the burgers — definitely a good place to have around. Then back, once more, to the Magic Kingdom; the boys went off to do Star Tours, but Diane and I wandered around for a while and eventually lined up for the Storybook Boats, which are far nicer at night than in the day. Then we wandered to Adventureland where we watched Fantasmic (more projecting on mist) and the fireworks. And then back to the hotel.

IBM has three annual timed exercise programs, where you form teams and agree to do a certain number of minutes per week — if you succeed, you get little tchotkes as a reward. The fall program started on Sunday; fortunately, walking counts as exercise, and we got a lot of it — my pedometer finished the day at 28,543 steps, which translates to 195 minutes of walking, which is nearly 2/3 of my weekly committment. Which might make up for half of the French fries I had for dinner.

The boys have one more day left on their Disney passes; Diane and I only bought one-day passes. While I wouldn’t have minded hitting the Jungle Cruise and MuppetVision 3D again, and we missed the Disneyland Railroad and all the classic rides in Fantasyland, I think one day was plenty for me this time around. And I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer the rain we usually hit in our winter visits to the hot sun of today, either.

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I remember when it was shiny and new

LA Con IV starts Wednesday ; we drove down today so that we could play a little bit at Disneyland…err, the Anaheim Resort Area. The drive down was uneventful and quick — well, until we got to Magic Mountain; then the signs said “big traffic jam I5 at Lankershim”, so we switched to 101, where traffic bogged down until we rejoined I5 south of downtown. I don’t know if we actually saved any time or not, but I felt as though I were taking control of the situation, so I guess it was a good thing to do.

At any rate, we arrived at the Anaheim Hilton about 4:30, which was pretty good time for us (as usual, we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch, which always takes a while) and got checked in. We’d stayed here before in 1984 for LA Con II — that was very soon after the hotel had opened, and they weren’t quite ready for a large convention; I remember, with no fondness, opening our room only to find that there were other people already in residence! That wasn’t a problem this time — both rooms were just fine.

But we are already waiting for elevators…and this is days before the con actually opens. I’d better go find the stairs!

After checking in, we went to Disney Universe; Jeff and his friend have three-day tickets, so they went into the Magic Kingdom. Diane and I decided one day of the parks would be enough, so we wandered to Downtown Disney for dinner (we’d also hoped to cache, but all of the caches here are multi-caches, and I hadn’t downloaded all the coordinates). We had a pleasant dinner at Catal Uva Bar and Cafe; they offered 25% off on bottles, including half-bottles, so we split a half of La Creme Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, as was the food (though I probably should have gotten something more substantial than a compressed salad).

Then we wandered a bit and returned; the boys just came back from their exciting evening, and now Jeff wants to steal the computer so he can blog. I am a bad influence….

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May the force be with you — quickly!

The trailer for the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of Star Wars Shortened is up. The full show is to be broadcast on SkyMovies in the UK starting on August 26th, and undoubtedly to be found on filesharing networks moments later.

There’s also a SkyNews interview with two of the RSC, including a taste of episodes III and IV, up on YouTube.
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Running on empty — three ways from Friday

Back in May, I adapted a Pilot G2 to use a MontBlanc refill, following this instructable. Life was good, at least in the writing department, until this week, when the refill ran dry (three months seems pretty fast). So I’ve switched back to the G2’s native refill; let’s see how long it lasts.

Today was my last day at work for a week or so (vacation, hooray!), so I was motivated to finish off a couple of projects. One project was Web2.0-related (sounds good, eh? It was just some Python hacking); the other was getting my inbox to empty before I left for the trip, since I have no intention of connecting to work while I’m away. I succeeded at both — or at least I declared victory: the hacking was good enough that I could do the final touchups in an editor, and my inbox was, indeed, empty. But I have a new folder in my Lotus Notes mail, “- AAActive!”, for the couple of items I couldn’t finish because they needed to be handled on the phone, and the East Coast was long gone by the time I finished. Hmmm, when I dig out the laptop, I think I’ll put a reminder on my d3 Tiddlywiki; I’m still using it fairly faithfully (not so much the last couple of days while I’ve been heads-down on one project, though).

I’m also running on empty when it comes to energy. So I think I’ll try to make an early night of it and step away from the keyboard.

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WLEE to return from the dead — briefly

XM 60’s on 6 has a regular Friday afternoon show called “Sonic Sound Salutes” where they use jingles, sweepers, and actual airchecks from 60’s AM radio stations.  I’ve tuned into it by accident a couple of times, but haven’t made a habit of listening.

I happened to tune in to the end of today’s show (WABC/770, New York, complete with Cousin Brucie), and Terry Young announced that the next show, on September 1, will be WLEE/1480, Richmond, the station I grew up with (and, at times, hated because they had a very strong signal at my house, making DXing a challenge).  It’ll be good to hear some of those old voices again…I wonder if they’ve got an aircheck of Shane saying, “Heavyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”?

Far out!

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Snakes on a Plane: The Allegory

Jeff came up with this as we were out for our evening walk.  Presented for your approval, Snakes on a Plane: The Allegory.

Tomorrow, the film Snakes on a Plane will be released. It is the story of two FBI agents, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Houghton, protecting a witness (played by Nathan Phillips) who will testify in a very important trial. An assassin has released 500 snakes to kill the witness on the plane. The film may sound unintelligent, but in reality, it is the most sophisticated movie of the decade. For the film is not really about snakes on a plane: it is about the War in Iraq.

The plane in the film is really the United States of America. The witness represents our innocence as a nation, an innocence that keeps America flying. But Vice President Cheney’s company Halliburton seeks to poison America’s soul (Phillips) by sending misinformation about weapons of mass destruction into the country. To stop this spread of lies and deceit, the heads of the 9/11 Commission (Jackson & Houghton) seek to protect the county’s innocence, knowing full well the real threat in the War on Terror is not Iraq. However, if it is bitten, all of America will panic and go to war, with the risk that the whole country will crash. Jackson’s character best sums up how America feels about being lied to: “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” In our world America was bitten; we can only hope that the world of Snakes on a Plane will be much more happy.

But the film manages to delve into even deeper issues than Iraq, making it the most allegorical work since Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It carries a double message in a way that few movies can. For the film is also about high school, and the pressure to get into college without crashing.

The plane is Kehillah Jewish High School. Its goal is to transport its students to college in a safe, non turbulent, kosher ride. The Ivy League schools are represented by the snakes, sent by the parents of Phillips who are so carried away with their child’s future that they do not notice that the Ivy League schools’ expectations (in the form of the snake bites) are hurting him in the present. Jackson, Houghton, and Phillips represent students in this film. Jackson and Houghton are trying to protect their friend Phillips from the Ivy League schools’ influence. If Phillips is bitten, he will become an overachiever, sacrificing his life trying to follow the snakes back to their lair, Harvard University. Jackson’s courageous line “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” sums up his frustration with the system.

Parents everywhere are advised to see Snakes on a Plane twice, once keeping in mind the War in Iraq, and the second time keeping in mind their children’s futures. Afterwards, they are advised to show this film to their children twice as well. If a five year old says, “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” parents have done their job: they have bred a child who will not go with the flow and will stand up and fight. Snakes on a Plane is truly the most allegorical movie ever released.

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Comfort food

Today started early; Diane had an MRI at 7:45 (results: negative), so we got up early, which worked out well for me, since I had a telecon starting at 6am. Well, it would have worked out a lot better if I’d slept last night, but I made the mistake of fiddling with a project until nearly 11, and my mind was trying to finish the job all night.

So I wasn’t at my brightest this morning, and sitting on the phone for two-and-a-half hours, then rushing to work and getting back on for another two hours didn’t improve my mood any. (I keep reminding myself that I could be in Somers — but even that wasn’t enough to cheer me up today!)

We divided into smaller teams at 11:15 Eastern; instead of dialing my workgroup immediately, I decided to take a break and have an early lunch. Nothing at the cafeteria remotely appealed; instead, I drove to Mojo Burger for a tasty, if not terribly healthy, meal. I did eschew the free upgrade to a shake, though.

Getting out into the fresh air helped; food helped more. By the time I returned to the office, I was ready to get back on the phone for the next three hours of calls. Then I even managed to write a little code before calling it a night.

The laptop is still zipped up in the briefcase, by the way, and I can’t connect to work on this machine. Ahhh….

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Guilt is entirely optional

I tried to watch the 2005 version of The Producers tonight. The original movie was one of the first laserdiscs we ever bought, and it’s still one of my favorite movies.

I’d put the 2005 version on my Netflix queue some time ago, and it’s been sitting here for a week or so, waiting for me to get the necessary round tuit. Tonight was the night; I knew this version had been panned, but I really wasn’t expecting quite so much padding. I kept comparing Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick to Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and finding them lacking (though I must admit that Uma Thurman was up to Lee Meredith’s standards).

I stuck with the movie for about 30 minutes, then started making heavy use of the remote control to get to the good parts — well, good part. “Springtime for Hitler” was certainly worth watching, but then the movie went off the rails again.

If I’d bought the DVD, I’d feel like an idiot. If I’d paid to rent it, I’d’ve felt obligated to see the whole thing. But since I got it from Netflix, all I lost was a little time — it was never the only Netflix movie sitting at home, so there wasn’t even any real opportunity cost (and I’m still using Mom’s prepaid membership).

Why do I feel guilty anyway?

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The downside to not flying to a meeting…

…is spending hours on the phone, trying to listen to what’s going on in a crowded and noisy room 2500 miles away. I have a cordless headset, which makes it possible — but not pleasant.

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