Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Well I haven't had much to blog about lately, nor have I had much time to blog lately. Must be the holidays, oh yeah, and work.

Today I must say it took me until after noon to realize it was the last day of the year. For some reason I hadn't associated tomorrow with being New Year's Day. But while we're on the topic... what kind of ridiculous holiday is this?! Somehow just because it's the first day of the year, every country in the world decided that it's a day worth celebrating. This is fine with me, but what about the first day of the month? February 1st, March 1st, September 1st... these should ALL be holidays! Oh well!

I guess today was a productive day of cleaning... so at least I can start the new year with a clean apartment.

I also watched this quality cinematic feature called Men with Brooms. As you might expect, this is probably the only movie ever made that revolves around the sport of curling. It's definitely a comedy, though don't look to see it among the ranks of any Academy Award winning films. First, it's more bizarre than it is funny. There is a lot of subtle curling humor, that you'd only understand if you are a curler, or fully versed in curling lingo and etiquette. As it was, it was nothing more than a fully predictable plot, filled in with a lot of other obscure garbage. Oh yeah, and since it's a Canadian comedy, it takes every opportunity possible to make fun of Americans and portray them as stupid, uptight, pompous, or some permutation thereof. The most famous actor in the film was probably Leslie Nielsen, which makes perfect sense considering he's Canadian and probably has made more terrible comedies than any man alive. (Though I think he is still hilarious, and enjoy even his terrible movies.)

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Deal... or No Deal?

Tonight began yet another primetime gameshow that we stole from the Brits. The show, Deal or No Deal, is being run as a primetime mini-series-type special that will run each night this week at 8pm on NBC. Reminds me of the original schedule of Who Wants to be a Millionare, before they started running it every night for a month, and then eventually even syndicated it, until people got so sick of it they run away.

I digress... so Deal or No Deal. The premise of this show is so ridiculously simple I feel like I'm sitting back in my STAT 394 class determining the probability and expected value of each decision. Once you filter out all the lights, glitz, and strategically placed commercial breaks, you're left with this:

1) There are 26 numbered briefcases, each containing a value from $.01 to $1,000,000.
2) The contestant selects one of the briefcases.
3) The contestant then selects the remaining briefcases one-by-one, which are opened to reveal the values contained within.
4) At various points throughout the process, the contestant is made an offer to sell the briefcase they selected for a specified amount of money. If they take the offer (Deal) the game is over, otherwise (No Deal) the game continues until they either take a Deal or all of the remaining cases are opened.

That's all there is to it. The fascinating part (to me at least) is how "The Bank" a.k.a. the man upstairs with a yellow legal pad who is supposedly making the offers, though I consider it far more likely that a computer is making all of the calculations, is actually coming up with his offers. Now, I didn't take too close of a look at the values being offered at various points, but I'm pretty sure they're just offering the expected value of their selected briefcase based on the values remaining. For example, when the contestant tonight was down to just 2 briefcases (their own, and one other) the two remaining values were $50,000 and $500. So what is the EV of the case she selected? (50000+500)/2 = 25250. And what was she offered? $25,000 even. Sounds about right to me.

How long is this going to last? My guess is probably, oh... about 5 episodes. :) Why? Because the show has several fatal flaws that are the curse of all bad gameshows:

1) The audience can't play along. Well, they CAN, but really, it's about as much fun as when your friend goes "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 26". "Oooh... sorry, wrong."
2) B-list celebrity turned game show host. The host of this show is Howie Mandel. Name one thing he's done in the past 10 years... yeah, that's what I thought. Now the same might have been said about Regis when he first took on the role as host of Millionaire... but he proved himself nicely... it helps that people knew who he was and he's a likable enough guy. Howie reminds me of when they got John McEnroe to host that failed attempt at a game show called "The Chair" where people were answering trivia questions while strapped into a chair and they lost if their heart rate went up too much. Can we say ridiculous premise?
3) Lack of variety. After about 5 episodes of this, every episode will start to feel the same. It's not like they can change up the questions, or have new celebrity guests, or anything different. See reason #1... how many times can you play "I'm thinking of a number" before it gets old... oh yeah, maybe twice. 'Nuff said.

Now that I've devoted more time than this show deserves, I have a question... what's the deal with America stealing all of our gameshows from the British? Are we not creative enough to create our own incredibly ridiculous premises and pretend to give away exorbitant amounts of money, but in reality give away nothing more than the slimmest chance of winning anything substantial? I have one thing to say: No Deal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you don't think this is cool...

... there's something wrong with you.

Q: How'd they do that?

Now, if only I had:
1) a house
2) money to burn
3) creativity

I'd be all set. Well, 3's no problem, 2 might be able to work... but 1 is a sticking point. We'll see what we can do.

My name is Joe, and I endorse this product.

Celebrities and well-known people have been endorsing products since the beginning of television (or if you consider radio the precursor to television, long before the beginning of television). One thing I've always wondered though, why do celebrities do it? Admittedly, it probably depends on the celebrity, I mean your solid B-list celebrity probably genuinely could use the extra income it provides... so we'll forget about those. But pick someone rich enough that they shouldn't really need to do commercials for the money. In recent memory I recall Donald Trump hawking Domino's Pizza. Do I really believe that The Donald says to the wife "you know, let's order some pizza tonight" from his Manhattan penthouse, and even if he did want pizza, would he order that mass-produced cardboard that comes out of the Domino's ovens? Not in a million years. But surely he can't be needing the cash (though maybe to him, every dollar counts, so that measly $500,000 he gets from Domino's to act like a buffoon on national TV commercials is money in the bank)?

Enough about Trump, what about the new commercials for Campbell's Select soup with John Lithgow? Personally, I think the commercial where he breaks out into a spontaneous showtune about soup is absolutely hilarious. It's a great commercial, though I'd never buy the product. (Somehow I liken eating soup out of a box to drinking wine out of a box... just add "Mc" in front of the name.) Does John Lithgow need the money? Perhaps, though being the star of a top-rated sitcom for a few years (which is still in syndication somewhere, I'm sure) must leave a bit of cashola in the ol' pocketbook. Does he actually like the soup? Probably, but who doesn't like soup?

No, I think there is a commonality here that we have yet to explore. Celebrities are famous only as long as they remain in the minds of the public as a whole. What has Lithgow done since his sitcom? Can you name a single show he's been in? I can't, though I'm sure there are some. But what better way to get your face back on the screen and back into the viewers minds than by doing a cheesy TV commercial... one where everyone talks to their friends and goes "did you SEE that commercial with so-and-so... can you believe he did that?" It's perfect. Has anyone forgotten about Trump yet? No, probably not, but like him or not, he's a very smart man and knows business and how the public thinks. He probably thinks of his Domino's commercial solely in terms of keeping his name and face out there in the public. As long as he's still a star, people won't soon forget him, so it's time well invested (and he can buy a few pizzas with the chunk of change they gave him).

So by the same concept, as long as I keep blogging, people won't forget that I exist and people will keep reading. I'll be a Z-list celebrity yet!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Episode II: The Phantom Jury

Another day of jury duty, waiting to be called... the wheels of justice turn slowly apparently.

8:30am - I arrived and checked in, and took an obligatory seat in the jury assembly room. Today I got here plenty early, and got a nice table to work at over in the corner. Much easier than sitting with your laptop on your lap. It's decidedly more empty in here today, maybe removing those 40 folks from yesterday made a difference. As I count the number of people in the room I'm in... 37. There's probably slightly more in the other room, and a few more in the lobby. So yeah, I'd estimate at least 100 folks around here today waiting for their chance to serve (or more likely, sitting around hoping they're not called so they can go home for good at the end of the day).

9:15am - First announcement of the morning. 4 cases on the docket today with potential juries. Nothing as of yet, so more to come. I'll continue to sit here wasting time finding things to do online.

10:30am - Still nothing. We had an "official" jury break... but still no news. In one of the rooms they started a movie on the TVs, I guess it was good... I was already sitting in the "quiet" room and didn't feel like moving from my excellent seat. :)

11:15am - Finally some word. Of the 4 cases scheduled today, 3 of them have settled or otherwise been dismissed. That leaves only 1 jury remaining for the day, and we've got way too many people for that. So 50 people are selected to be excused with thanks for their service. My name is called, and I'm done.

And that was the story of my jury duty experience. I guess it wasn't a total waste of time... though it's hard not to think that when I spent two days doing nothing short of sitting around doing nothing. Oh well. At least I've served my time until next time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Doing my part to uphold the Seventh Amendment

Is this what we have to go through to uphold the American right to a trial by jury? Perhaps so. I must say, they have gone to great lengths to make the process as painless and efficient as possible.

As one might have guessed, I'm sitting here in the Jury Assembly room of the King County Superior Court at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. Fortunately they have wifi internet connectivity here, which makes for a slightly more efficient way to pass the time. But in the interests of infotainment, here's a running commentary of today's events thus far:

8:00am - Arrive at the courthouse, make your way through the metal detectors at security, and check in with the nice people at the desk in the Jury Assembly room. Nice facility, I must say... and very efficient process. Just have to grab a clipboard and fill out my "Juror Biography" form (in triplicate, of course... gotta love bureaucracy) that basically asks your age, occupation, where you live, and various other classifying questions that would be provided to the lawyers should you be picked for a jury pool.

8:30am - I'd suspect about 150-200 potential jurors are gathered by now. One of the judges dropped by to welcome us all and give us an obviously scripted spiel about how important we are to the judicial process and such... though she obviously ad-libbed a lot of it too and added much more sincerity than a scripted list would do. This followed by a well-designed, yet incredibly cheesy "How to be a juror" video describing the activities. I felt like I was watching the pre-flight safety briefing video you see on some airplanes.

9:00am - Orientation complete... time to sit around and do nothing. We get the first announcement of the day, informing us that there are 4 potential jury trials on the docket today. Sit back, relax, and enjoy doing nothing.

9:30am - Update... 1 of the 4 potential trials will not be requiring a jury. Make that 3 potential jury trials remaining. I think it's a slow day at the RJC.

10:20am - After a brief 20 minute break to walk around and stretch our legs outside of the JA room, we receive the first jury impaneling of the morning. 15 names are called, and they all immediately leave for their mission. 2 potential juries remain.

11:00am - The 2 trials may still need juries, but definitely not before lunch. Since official lunch time is 12:00am-1:30pm, we may leave now and be back by 1:30pm. A nice 2 1/2 hour lunch break. I realized that I should have brought my laptop, and now with a 2.5 hour break, I drove back to my parents house in Federal Way, got my laptop and had some lunch... and then got back to the RJC at about 12:45 or so to sit and relax with the wifi connectivity.

1:30pm - Everyone's back from lunch, and time to call more jurors. This time they're going to impanel 40 jurors. (Based on this, we guess that it's probably a pretty big criminal trial they're dealing with.) I was not one of the 40 selected. Good news or bad news? We shall see. The 40 all turn in their juror bio forms and receive a number, and come back to relax some more while the counsel reviews their forms. Tick tick tick... 1 potential jury remains.

2:15pm - The 40-member jury panel receives word that the case has settled (I've watched enough Law and Order to piece this together... lots of legal bluffing from one side or the other... threatening to go to a jury, scared the defense enough to take a plea). As a result, those 40 people who did nothing but get assigned a number, are dismissed with the thanks of the court. They were technically on a jury even though they never actually left the jury room... so they don't have to come back tomorrow and they're done. Suddenly everyone's wishing they were one of the 40 selected. :)

2:30pm - With one potential jury remaining, and by my estimations well over 100 potential jurors in the room, it's quite clear that a lot of us will be returning tomorrow. But, at this point I have a minor celebrity-sighting. Who is one of the other potential jurors in the pool, none other than former Washington State Governor Mike Lowry! As my friend Jonell said, "That's a mug you can't miss!" True enough. Anyway, shortly after 2:30, we get the final announcement: the last trial has plenty of work to get through the rest of the day, and won't need a jury until tomorrow. So, we're all excused early, and will report again at 8:45am on Thursday. If we still aren't selected, that's the ballgame and we've served our time. Otherwise in the unfortunate event that I get selected for a jury, I could end up back again later the following week to continue on a trial. We'll see how things turn out. Time to go home!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

You have now entered... the twilight zone...

When worlds collide, we enter a dimension known only as... the twilight zone. In tonight's episode... two of my favorite things come together in an unexpected place. But more on that later. First, last night was the usual Monday night curling league, we had what I would call a supremely decent showing. We actually got lucky when it mattered, but all in all played very well. The line score follows:

Now for the obscure connection. Tonight I'm watching the Amazing Race, as usual, and nothing too odd happening. But then came the previews for the finale of the Amazing Race 8, where in my usual attempt to discern where the race will go next week I saw the greatest thing ever. They'll be CURLING on the Amazing Race next week! From the looks of it, it appears to be some sort of detour or roadblock, my guess is that they have to throw a rock and sweep it into the house, or perhaps something more complicated. It's great! Now I MUST watch next week!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why DVR is the greatest thing EVER!

Rarely do I like to praise anything that comes from those money-grubbing fools at Comcast, but despite the fact that I think they charge too much for the services they provide, I can't dispute the fact that they provide top-notch products. I think their high-speed internet is far superior to DSL, and their cable TV I can't argue much with either.

So yesterday, I upgraded my cable box to one of the new fandangled dual-tuner DVRs from Comcast. For those of you not in the know, a DVR is a "Digital Video Recorder". If you hear people talking about a Tivo, it's essentially the same thing. Tivo is a brand name, but they make DVRs. Of course, what can you DO with a DVR? I'm glad you asked!

In its simplest form, it works just like a VCR, except that instead of recording things on a VHS tape, it records it digitally on its internal hard drive. You can play the shows back whenever you want, fast forward, rewind, pause, basically everything you can do with a regular VCR. But that is where the similarities end.

The excitement begins with the fact that it's fully integrated with the on-screen TV guide. The advantage here is that all you have to do is find what you want to record in the TV guide, and press the record button on the remote, and you're set. It knows exactly when to record it, and won't forget. No chance of messing up the times or anything like that.

The excitement continues... say I want to record the same show whenever it's on. For example, I set it up to record The Price is Right every day. Now, if I get home from work and want to watch it, I can watch that morning's show whenever I want! And I can even set the option to only keep the most recent episode, so my DVR doesn't try to store weeks worth of shows, but only todays. It's... ehem... Comcastic?

The excitement builds... so since I'm too tired to stay up and watch David Letterman at 11:30 every night, I can just watch it the next day when I feel like it. But what's better? Since it's all pre-recorded, I can fastforward through all of the commercials. An hour long show is immediately cut down to something like 40 minutes or so. Plus who really wants to watch all of those commercials anyway.

The excitement never ends... it's more than just for watching pre-recorded stuff. You can also do lots of neat stuff with live television. Last night I was watching Law and Order and I got a phone call (during the most exciting part, of course), so I missed part of it. Then I remembered... I can actually PAUSE live TV. So I hit the pause button and the DVR and all is well... except that it took me about a minute to remember that I could pause it, so I missed some stuff. NOT A PROBLEM... I can also REWIND live TV because the DVR automatically saves the last 20-30 minutes of what you're watching, so it's easy to go back if you missed something. (I haven't tried this with say, a football game, but sounds like a pretty neat feature there!) No chance to miss anything.

So, why am I so thrilled? Why can't I live without this? I probably could... but wow is it a neat thing and now even when there's nothing on live TV, there's plenty of stuff I can watch pre-recorded. Is there a catch? Of course, it costs me more. But I was actually considering a Tivo before I realized how far superior the Comcast DVR is. Tivo costs $12.99 a month, PLUS you have to buy the Tivo box which is NOT fully-integrated with your digital cable. With the Comcast DVR, no up-front costs-- the box is provided-- and the monthly fee, only $9.95 a month on top of my current cable bill. BUT... this actually replaces the HDTV box that I'm already using, which was $6.50 more a month... so if you subtract that, add the other, you realize that it's only costing me $3.50 more a month! Well, that's what the original plan was. But there's one more catch there (leave it to Comcast to zap every bit of money out of your wallet)... you MUST subscribe to Digital Cable in order to get DVR. I was originally just using the basic cable package. So another upgrade to the Digital Classic base plan was an additional $10 more a month. The result... $13.50 more a month, but that also includes a whole bunch more channels (including my good friend the Game Show Network). Somehow that all worked out I'm paying $13.50 more and am perfectly happy with the result.

And believe it or not... despite the price that I still think is higher than it needs to be... it's still Comcastic. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

All that work for a $10 lightbulb

What ever happened to do-it-yourself car repairs. Sometimes I swear that manufacturers intentionally design cars just so that it's next to impossible to make simple repairs yourself. Now, I'm not trying to replace the engine, or anything like that... I'm not crazy. I just found last night that one of my headlights was out, so logically, this morning I go to the auto parts store up the street and pick up a replacement bulb. I figured, pop the old one out, put the new one in, piece of cake, right? WRONG. A job that I expected would take no more than 10 minutes ended up taking over an hour.

So I pop the hood, use my trusty maglight to scope around for an easy way to replace it. I can see exactly where the bulb connects to the car, the problem is you basically need hands of a 6-year-old to even reach down in there, plus once you do, there's not enough clearance to get the bulb out anyway, because the battery is in the way.

Plan B: Remove the battery. Easy, right? Sure, just disconnect the battery terminals, and loosen the one bolt that holds the battery down, and it just pops right out. Battery terminals... considering I've never replaced the battery the nuts that hold the terminals on were a little tight and awkward, but I managed to get them off with reasonably little trouble. Then that big bolt way down at the bottom that holds the battery on... not such an easy story. I can get a ratchet down there and it just fits in perfectly. One problem... there's no space to TURN the ratchet. Minor details.

It's at this point I second guess myself just wondering if there's an easier way then taking the battery out. So, after messing with my own intuitional instruction manual, I opened up the glove box and found the owners manual and flipped to the page on replacing head lamps. (At least they still put the instructions for this in the manual.) I call it "How to replace the headlamp in 9 easy steps." The first 6 steps involve removing about half a dozen screws, nuts, and bolts and basically disassembling the front corner panel of the car, followed by 3 quick and easy steps to disconnect the bulb and replace it. The additional caveat, "based on the complexity of the procedure, we recommend taking your vehicle in to an authorized service center for replacement." Taking the car into the dealer to replace the headlight? I think not. Removing half the front end of the car just to replace the headlight? I also think not.

I now return to the original plan of removing the battery, this time with a bit more resolve than the last time. Using a creative combination of the ratchet, vise-grips, and crescent wrenches, I managed to get the bolt holding the battery on loosened. From this point forward things become decidedly easier. I removed the battery, which gave me a wide-open reach at the back of the headlight. A few twists and disconnections and the bulb came right out. The new one went in equally easy. Of course, since the battery was now sitting on the floor of the garage, I had no way of knowing whether or not the new bulb was installed correctly and working, but I had hope.

I replaced the battery, reconnected everything and screwed everything back in (albeit this time, not nearly as tightly as it was in previously, because inevitably next week my battery will die or something). Turned on the headlights and it worked beautifully. The only lasting side-effects: my radio presets were all reset, but I'd been meaning to change them around anyway, so it worked out well. All in all, everything's fine but it was incredibly too much work for such a simple task to replace a $10 lightbulb.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Curling updates

Well, curling is still keeping me busy these days. Monday night curling went, I wouldn't say "well", but by the right combination of luck and decent shots we managed to win. As you might tell from the line score:

Things were looking bleak after 3 ends, but somehow we managed to turn things around at just the right time to make it work. In related news, as is part of the Monday night league, each week 2 teams bring food for everyone, and this was our team's week to bring food... or so we thought. There was a shuffle of the schedule a few weeks back, at which we thought we got moved from last week to this week, so we brought food this week. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to think we were supposed to bring food last week, so confusion abounded. Either way, there was plenty of food this week and everyone was happy. :)

And in other news, in our Sunday novice league, we had a mini open house... basically a "bring your friends curling" day, and I convinced Jonell and Chris to come. They both ended up having a good time... after they discovered the miracle of slip-on grippers to go over their shoes. Being a med school resident, Chris has no consistent schedule, so a weekly event like curling doesn't mesh well. But Jonell has decided to join the novice league this year, and will be out curling with us next week. How exciting!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Do they think people won't notice?

Have you noticed that commercials take certain "artistic liberties" when promoting their products and services? This has probably been done since the dawn of television, but it makes it look so fake and unbelievable. Now, I accept the "best case scenario" advertising, like you see in the fast food commercials. You see the Burger King commercials for a Whopper... have you EVER ordered a Whopper that looks like that? Of course not... mine has usually been squished and flattened, with no strategically-placed beads of ketchup and mustard glistening out of either side of the crisp red tomato. But theoretically, on a particularly lucky day, it might look something like that... the commercial is simply what you might get in the best case scenario. This doesn't really bother me.

What I'm taking about are things that are completely changed for the purpose of the commercial. Take credit card commercials for example. It's so common these days to demonstrate the "convenience" of using credit / debit cards to make purchases. Their favorite way of showing this to show the customer swiping their card at the terminal when checking out. Of course, they take certain care to hold the card so you can see the Visa logo (or Discover, or whatever, they all do it) while they're swiping the card. Freeze the camera. Go pull a credit card out of your wallet... go ahead, I'll wait...



OK, good. Now tell me, what's wrong with this picture?:

I'm all about product placement, but tell me exactly how productive this transaction is going to be, considering the magnetic stripe on the card isn't even going through the machine. Plus, if you've ever had a senile moment and tried to swipe your card this way, you'll quickly notice how it doesn't slide particularly well when you're running over the raised numbers! Every time I see this, it drives me crazy. Think of how many people mimic what they see in the commercials, and then feel stupid because it doesn't work. Maybe they should sue Visa for emotional distress caused by their deceptive advertising? No no no, that would be a frivolous lawsuit... and that's a blog for another day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election updates...

Watching the election results come in can be a satisfying experience... well, when you're in the apparent majority. As a follow-up to my Initiatives blog from a few weeks back, apparently the majority of the state had mostly the same sentiments I do. What we have learned tonight:
  • Nearly 2/3 of Washington citizens don't like smoke, at that's something all 39 counties can agree on. In 30 days, look forward to enjoying smoke-free bars, casinos, and bowling alleys.
  • Confusing initiatives about healthcare and malpractice reform don't win enough votes
  • As much as people hate gas taxes, they hate our current roads more
  • 57% of Washingtonians still listen to the trash that comes out of Tim Eyman's mouth, but ironically, most of the rural counties in the state have him figured out. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.
  • Seattleites are fed up with the monorail, and will be glad to stop hearing about it for good.

I guess I don't have much to complain about, believe it or not. The people have spoken.

And in a last-minute reminder and plug for my other blog, the Amazing Race 8 Travelblog had a special guest columnist this week, so be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And the Oscar for best movie reviews goes to...

In what I will officially credit as the find of the year, my friend Andrew stumbled onto a biweekly online video segment on that features everyone's favorite heckling Muppets, Statler and Waldorf, live From the Balcony with reviews (or rather, what seems to be more of a cynical view) of recent and upcoming movies. Each segment is about 10 minutes or so in length, and 99.9% hilarious. The current episode is actually the 10th in the series, but fortunately for those of us a little late on the uptake, they have the entire archive of past episodes available for viewing. And the best part: it's absolutely free! It can't be beat!

Each episode features clips from trailers, special features starring other members of the Muppets crew including Pepe the King Prawn, as well as the weekly "Balcon-ism". This is high-quality entertainment, so much so that it merits being immortalized on my featured links segment right here in the Universe of Synergy! Now if you'll excuse me, I have more reviews to watch.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween curling

Nothing particularly interesting happening on halloween this year, but I did have my normal Monday night curling league. The only thing that made this halloween night spooky was the fact that my parents came to watch curling. :) On the other hand, my mom was yet again obsessed with her camera and took some pictures.

The empty curling rink prior to the games

On the bright side, I was playing really well, as was the rest of my team, and we managed to win 9-2. The only really terrible shot I made was when the camera flash went off right in my face right as I was delivering a rock... I guess it made for a good picture, but a horrible shot.

Bad shot, good picture.

Some random sweeping on one of my shots

Well, that's about it for tonight... just wanted to get some of the pictures up. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Initiatives... and battling propaganda

Initiatives... in Washington State they constitute the right of the people to enact laws outside of the legislature's failure to do so. As we come down to yet another voting crunch time, the propaganda keeps flying. You see it on the news, you see it in advertisements, you may have even seen it in your mailbox. On general principle, I usually vote no on nearly every initiative, on the grounds that they are usually just an abuse of the legislative system in this state. The power of initiatives were given to people to enact laws that the legislature was failing to recognize for whatever reasons. But, the majority of the initiatives you see these days have never even passed through Olympia, but are rather attempts to introduce entirely new legislation straight from a small minority with a loud voice. Take this year's competing medical malpractice reform legislation, neither of which are anything more than extreme and poorly thought out laws to benefit the parties that are proposing them.

However, there's one initiative this year which received my support. Initiative 901 will extend the statewide "Clean Indoor Air Act" to remove exceptions for bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos, and bars; and additionally limit all smoking withing 25 feet of entrance ways. This one isn't anything new to the legislature. On multiple occasions the lawmakers in Olympia have taken up the discussion, but for whatever reasons (which I think are strongly related to the constant pressure from the tobacco and business lobbyists), they have yet to take any action. I believe that the initiative process exists just for this purpose.

Of course, now that I've established, at least in my own mind, that the initiative is worthy of consideration, the question of whether or not it's worth supporting comes into question. As expected, there are two competing camps here, both conveniently with their own websites:

No On 901:
Healthy Indoor Air for All Washington:

This is where the war of propaganda comes into play. On the pro side, the main argument seems to be that everyone has the right to work and live without the hazards of breathing second-hand smoke, plain and simple. Any other remarks are simply responses to refute the claims of the competing camp. On the anti side, the argument is not so concise. On the front page of their website, I was first presented with a conspiracy theory that the initiative is motivated entirely by the big pharmaceutical companies in order to boost sales of their tobacco-quitting drugs. Now I'm all for a good conspiracy theory, but this is utterly ridiculous. First, it implies that this law will cause a significant increase in the number of smokers trying to quit. I honestly do not think that it's going to change very many people to stop smoking. It's an addiction, they'll simply find new places where they can smoke and go there. If they do decide to stop smoking, it won't be because they were told they had to... heaven knows they've gotten that same message countless times in the past and they're still smoking.
Conspiracies aside, the "No On 901" website makes quite a statement on nearly every page:

"This is not a debate on the merits of smoking. The debate is whether we wish to
give our government the right to outlaw smoking by adults on ones own personal
property, private business or vehicle while at the same time knowing all tribal
lands and businesses will be exempt."
While for one, this sounds like something they conveniently garnered from some well-conceived campaign material, it doesn't hold much water when further down the same page they present a collection of ill-conceived statistics and soundbytes extoling the supposed lack of a link between smoking and cancer, claiming cancer is all genetic. I was trying to find the kitchen sink on their website, but they seemed to have stopped just a hair short of throwing that at me.

Filtering through the smokers propaganda though, there really is a reasonable argument against the law, and that is the one presented by the businesses affected. The claim is that by prohibiting smoking in said establishments, business will suffer as customers go elsewhere--most notably to the bars and casinos on tribal lands unaffected by the initiative. While there may be some merit to this idea, I first believe that the potential influx of new customers to these establishments would far outweigh the number who stop patronizing them. Plus, realizing just how relatively small and far-between the tribal casinos are, I don't honestly believe that everyone will flood the reservations just to smoke and gamble, because of the crowds would be enormous and the air, well, toxic. It's just change, pure and simple... people will get used to it, and in a few years won't think anything of it.

All things considered, I voted no on every initiative, except I-901. I already mailed by absentee ballot in, but on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, we shall see what happens. Hopefully most other voters can filter through the propaganda and make their own educated votes too, whether they are the same or different than my own.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blog leftovers...

Nothing new and interesting here, just updates to stuff I've already written about. First the Cingular saga. So yesterday I went and did everything that the fine customer service rep suggested I do. I tried the phone with the updates that she sent to the phone, no change in behavior. So I stop by the Cingular store at Northgate and upgrade to a new SIM card... on the bright side, they didn't charge me for it, so I ended up with an extra $25 credit on my account, nothing wrong with that. But unfortunately, that also had no effect, I have the same problem I had before. Today I give Cingular a call back to see what they can do now. The first person I talked to was surprised the solutions I tried didn't work, and the only thing she could do was transfer me to their Equipment Exchange department to get a replacement phone. I worked my way through the Cingular phone system to find the specified folks, and talked to another lady who I explained the problem to. She thought it didn't sound like the phone had any problem, and I agreed that a replacement phone likely wouldn't help a bit. I asked her if I could talk to their technical support people who might be able to understand the problem. She put me on hold and found what she claimed to be someone from tech support, but it was just the normal customer support people again. This person still was not technical, and did nothing more than the rest of them tried to do. C'mon! Let me talk to someone technical who actually knows more details than what they've been taught in their "keep the customers happy" training. Though on the bright side, she credited me with a months service on my account. Well, at that I was out of options. So I went to plan C, and e-mailed Cingular, trying once again to get through to someone who can solve the problem. I got a prompt response to my e-mail, who said essentially that it "should work the way you describe"... and provided no real solution. What help is that?! I mean, I KNOW how it's supposed to work, what does it take to get it through to you people that it ISN'T working how it's SUPPOSED to work. ARGG. I'll respond to the e-mail and try to rattle more cages tomorrow. In the meantime, at least things haven't gotten any worse.

And in last night's Monday night curling updates... I played positively poorly for at least half of the rocks I threw. My line was good, but the weight tended to be off and the rocks would go through the back of the house, which certainly didn't help. After 7 ends, we were down 2 with one end to go. Then my whole team started making good shots, including myself. I made a great draw to the back of the house, followed by my teammates making great shots, and we ended up scoring 3 in the 8th end to win by 1 with a score of 6-5. No more curling until Friday.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Adventures with Cell Phones

I've determined that cell phones are a necessary evil. They never work quite how you expect them to, or the service isn't quite as good as you expect it to be, or something else causes you to be less than 100% satisfied. I've been pleased with my cell phone 70% of the time, except that other 30% of the time when I'm at home in my apartment, and it insists on giving me terrible signal strength. This is all the result of Cingular merging with AT&T Wireless back a year or so ago. Through my own research, I've determined that I get excellent signal (full bars) when I am connected to the AT&T (blue) network, but only 1 bar with the Cingular (orange) network. Despite this fact, my phone ALWAYS will prefer the 1-bar orange network over the 5-bar blue network. It's terribly frustrating, especially considering my cell phone is my only phone at home. The official word out of the Cingular home office has been that eventually they'll get the blue and orange networks all integrated, and nobody will have this problem anymore.

Well I got sick of waiting for this, and I called Cingular Customer Service today. Surprisingly enough, while I fully expected and was prepared for the reality that the first person I talked to on the phone wouldn't be able to help me and would probably give me the runaround, I was refereshingly proven wrong. The nice woman I talked to on the phone listened to my polite complaint, and proceeded to do some manic typing on her keyboard. She seemed well aware of the problem and provided me several solutions. First, she pushed out a software update to my phone while I was on the line (I could tell, because the screen on my phone did some wonky things while it was updating). She suggested that just the more recent updates may actually solve the problem. She also noted that my phone has an old 32K sim card, and recommended that I upgrade to a 64k sim card. She told me I could stop by any Cingular retail outlet and they can upgrade me on the spot, I'd just have to purchase the sim card which ranges from $20-$25. She said I can't avoid paying for the new card, BUT, she'd put a $25 credit on my Cingular bill to offset the cost of the upgrade. Even if the simple software update works, she recommended that I upgrade sim cards anyway.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough, she said that if after upgrading everything, if I was still having problems, to give them a call back and they'd arrange for a replacement phone upgrade to a newer model for no charge. Shocked and pleased at the service, I'm anxious to go home after work and see if it's working any better. Despite the fact that I've over the past many months found the precise optimal location in my apartment for best cell signal, I won't mind eliminating the need to contort my body into odd positions in order to use the phone. Stay tuned for late-breaking developments as the story progresses.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Long time no update...

I've been slacking off on my blog updates... well, partially because I've been so busy with things. At this moment, I just got home from my Friday night curling league, and am watching a rerun of Evening Magazine on TV which is featuring an interview with Bob Barker and a history of Husky Stadium. While that's probably way too much information, I'll elaborate.

The last 2 weeks or so I've been aggressively taking up the sport of curling. I think curling needs a new ad campaign to drum up some business in the States... I propose a new motto: "Curling... it's not just for Canadians anymore." Tonight we had 2 people from our team missing, so we had 2 subs, both of whom had curled even less than I have. Therefore I curled in the #3 position (Vice Skip), which was different than normally curling in the Lead position. The one difference being there were a lot of rocks out on the ice before I threw my rocks, and I had a couple of amazingly lucky shots, a double-takeout that was nearly a triple-takeout, and then a couple ends later, I actually made a lucky triple takeout. It was pretty impressive. Interspersed with my great shots were a couple that were less than stellar, but I can't be lucky all the time. :) We won our game 8-4 in 7 ends.

Tomorrow is another Husky Football game, against #1 U$C. Many have laughed at me or called me ridiculous for believing that there is any possible chance that we might beat U$C. I really don't believe it's going to happen, BUT I believe we have a chance. C'mon people... that's why it's called a game. But it should be a loud and rocking Husky Stadium, at least until the 3rd quarter or so where it may cut its attendance in about half. But you never know, stranger things have happened.

Anything else profound to add now? No, not really. Sleepy time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New and Improved?

In my continuing quest to expose the fraud that is the world of product marketing...

Have you ever wondered if things that are called "new and improved" really are? Take the Glade "Plug-in" air freshener, for example. This item now has several variations... there's the original plug-in, the "double-size" original design plug-in, then they came up with the "extra outlet" plug-in... the one with the extra outlet built into it so you don't lose one in the process, and countless other improvements since then.

Now I'm not going to say the improvements aren't useful... certainly they're good ideas. They say the simplest ideas are the most impressive. But that's just it... now I don't claim the people who invented the Glade Plug-In are rocket scientists or brain surgeons, but they're obviously smarter than your average person if they're inventing things like that. I'm supposed to be convinced that when they invented the Glade plug-in, they didn't think to add an extra outlet to it so you could use it without blocking an existing outlet? I think not! I propose that, in fact, all of the so-called improvements were there all along, but were de-improved for the sake of marketing. Let's take a step into the Conspiracy Time Machine and go back to that fateful day when the product marketing folks first encountered the Glade Plug-In...

<do the wavy tv flashback sequence thing here>

Here we have Jane, the person who invented the Plug-In, and Bob, the head of product marketing for Glade.

"Bob, we have this great new product! It's the air-freshener of the 90's... it plugs into the wall which warms this scent thingie, that releases freshness into the room."
"Wow Jane, that's genius! We'll sell millions!"
"But wait, there's more. Look, an extra outlet built-in so that you don't lose any space."
"That's great, but can we make it simpler? Get rid of the extra outlet and make it worse."
"What? Why would I want to do that?"
"Because if we dumb it down, it's still a product that's so ingenius everyone will buy it. But THEN, they'll realize that they're missing an outlet. Just then, we'll release the 'new and improved' model with the extra outlet! And they'll buy another, this time with the extra outlet! We'll keep adding everything as an extra feature, and get them to buy a new one. We'll sell 3 times as many as we would otherwise! It's the golden rule of product marketing, never give them a quality product first, if you can give them inferior quality and then make them upgrade!"

<back to reality>

So there you have it. It's all about swindling the consumer into purchasing the same thing multiple times, each time with a new improvement. The moral of the story is, next time you buy something that's "new and improved" think of who's trying to take your money. :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Disneyworld Day 7 & 8

This is a late update after being home for several days, but I'll try to recap the last two days of the trip.

Day 7 was a last wrap-up day that was spent mostly at Epcot, in fact, it was spent entirely at Epcot. A nice way to finish the trip. We made another lap around the World Showcase stopping at the various countries that we didn't stop at previously. We also went on the Soarin' ride again... which even though I've ridden it countless times in California, is just an outstanding ride.

Day 8 and time to go home... and the rains come in. Tropical Storm Tammy was pushing its outer edges into central Florida and starting the rains. But we weren't leaving until the evening, so we took a last stop over at Disney-MGM studios for some last minute excitement. Actually, Amy wanted to go play Millionaire, so she could try to get into the hot seat. So that's what we did. I, of course, was ineligible to get into the hot seat for 30 days after I got into it several days earlier, so it wasn't quite as fun for me. So Amy actually got the fastest finger question correct, but was not fast enough, she ended up being about 6th place and didn't make it into the hotseat. But some guy didn't do so well, and actually missed a relatively dumb question, and left rather quickly. The person with the highest score would make it into the hotseat, and that person was none other than, AMY. Now the entertainment comes. Amy does pretty well with her questions up to the first milestone at 1000 points. Of course, then there's a bit of banter between her and the host. Here's my paraphrased transcript of the conversation:

Host: "So Amy, what do you do in Seattle?"
Amy: "Uh, nothing at the moment, I'm unemployed"
H: "So you're just out of college, or...?"
A: "No, I was fired."
H: "Oh... I see... so what did you do?"
A: "I worked for a... marketing company."
H: "So obviously you were marketing the wrong stuff"
A: "Apparently."

H: "So did your boss do a Donald Trump thing like 'You're Fired!'"
A: "Haha... no, not quite, but that would have been funny. He kinda is like that."
H: "Bad hair and all."
A: "Totally."

At this point we continue... and a few questions later...
H: "For 16,000 points: King Kame... -ha-ma..."
A: "(correcting him) Kamehameha."
H: "Ka-me-hama"
H: "(laughing) Kamehame... sheesh, I've even BEEN to Hawaii... "
A: "Kamehameha"
H: "Kamehameha. King Kamehameha I was responsible for combining the flags of Britain and America into the state flag of which of these states."
A: "Where did you say you've been?"
H: "Nowhere! I've been nowhere!"
H: "A) New Mexico.... B) Utah.... C) Alaska..."
A: "I bet D) will be Hawaii."
H: "D) Hawaii. You know what my producer just said in my ear... 'You're Fired!'"
A: "Well hey, I'm looking for a job!"

At this point the host just loses it completely. The audience is laughing hysterically. At some point in there we get the answers all through. Amy makes it to the 125,000 question which she promptly gets incorrect and goes back down to 32,000 points. This concludes the show.

Backstage after the show, Amy's picking up her prizes, and the host drops by and tells her how much fun he had. Even the director comes by and jokes to the host "Make sure you get a copy of her resume." It was quite entertaining.

That concludes the excitement of the day, we all came home on our 6 hour flight. My dad and I managed to watch about 5 more episodes of West Wing... and we made it back including all of our luggage. That concluded the fine trip to Disneyworld.

I'll be adding and documenting all kinds of pictures in the photo album later... but for now that's all there is to say.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Disneyworld Day 6

Is it time to go home yet? Yes it has happened... I'm officially sick of being on vacation. I'm ready to go home. Not that things are bad or anything, it's just too much vacation. I'd love to be back in the 55-degree weather, back to work and the regular schedule. But instead, I've got another day of vacation. :)

Today's adventures were very laid back. Considering we've already been to all of the parks here, now we're just going back and catching things we missed the first time around. We went over to the Magic Kingdom this morning... and lo and behold there were a TON more people there than there were when we went a few days ago. It was almost mayhem... except that even with all of the extra people, the lines on the rides still weren't much worse.

We did go on Splash Mountain, and got wet. But that's all part of the fun of it. Here are some pictures I took that were neat.

After that we went back towards the center, had lunch, and then went over to Tomorrowland for some time. Took a ride on Space Mountain using some leftover fastpasses from 3 days earlier... fortunately they only look at the time, not the date. Then I wandered off to meet up with Amy and do some shopping... and again not buy anything. Typical. Got sick of the heat and the crowds, so we left the MK and took the monorail down to Epcot. There we rode Spaceship Earth, which most people don't realize is the actual name of the BIG Epcot icon--that silver ball-looking thing. The ride itself is an interesting, yet incredibly slow moving, journey through the history of communications. (What did you expect? This IS Epcot, afterall.)

After a little more wandering around Epcot, we took the monorail back to the Polynesian Resort for dinner at Ohana. Tasty dinner with lots of food, of course. Walt Disney must have loved to eat. :)

Tomorrow will be our last full day here at Disneyworld... so more of the same... then Wednesday finally coming home again. Now it's time to relax some more.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Disneyworld Day 5

Time for another update. Today we went to Epcot as planned. As has become the usual, Amy stayed in the hotel and slept, not at all caring about how difficult she was making things for the rest of us by refusing to even attempt to be a part of the vacation. But I digress. So we went to Epcot, went around the World Showcase and saw most of the countries represented. Plenty of shopping was done, though I don't think anything was bought. We then moved on to The Land section of Epcot which contained Soarin', the newest attraction at Epcot. This is an exact copy of the Soarin' Over California ride over at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, which we've all ridden multiple times, so we weren't completely set on riding it here. But while there, Amy finally showed up, and at about 3pm we all got fastpasses with return times from 8:00-9:00pm. What the heck, why not? After we got our fastpasses, we went to the second newest ride at Epcot: Mission Space. This ride never seems to have too long of lines, probably because it's so intense that people are either (a) scared of it, or (b) they've ridden it once and never want to ride it again. Myself falling into neither of those categories, was thrilled to go on it again. Amy and I convinced our parents that they would be fine on it, it wasn't THAT bad. Well, they almost chickened out, but made it. They now fall into category (b). :) I guess 5G forces are too much for some people of the aged pursuason.

But after that recovery, we worked our way back to the boat that took us over to dinner at the Beach Club resort. It was a buffet themed as a New England Clam Bake. Oddly enough, I was the only one who actually ate the steamed clams... but they had all kinds of tasty foods. So that was good by my standards. After that the parents took a bus back to our hotel, while Amy and I went back to Epcot and I proceeded to take two more laps back and forth through the World Showcase because she wanted to shop. Then we actually used the fastpasses and went on Soarin'. After that we got out and came back.

Now for my commentary. You wouldn't believe how many British people there are around here right now. All I hear are British accents. We've all noticed this, but can't figure out why this would be the case. Some figure that perhaps school hasn't started in the UK yet so people take vacations and are here. My guess is that there are exactly the same number of British people as there always are (Orlando IS a big international tourist destination), but there are just a lot fewer Americans vacationing right now, so you notice the foreigners more. We'll probably never really know the truth.

But speaking of how few people are around, I don't think we've had a wait time longer than 20 minutes on any ride we've been on. It's definitely something to be said for coming in the off-season. Good times. Tomorrow... another day another adventure.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Disneyworld Day 4

Another day at Disneyworld. Today's adventures were off to yet another late start, we didn't actually make it out of the hotel until about 11am. But that's ok... sleep and relaxation is good on vacation. Today we went over to the Disney-MGM Studios and spent most of the day there. As with yesterday, Amy stayed and slept and met us over there after a few hours. At the Studios, we went on a bunch of rides... including the fabulous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which features a 13-story drop in a runaway elevator. Who can beat that for thrills? :) We also endured the obligatory torrential downpours of "big" rain. These we survived nicely by just hopping from indoor attraction to indoor attraction. One of those being the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Play It!" game show attraction. Basically it's just like the TV show, except the contestants come from the audience and play for "points" which give you prizes. Well, as per always, they start with a Fastest Finger question, which was something like this:
Put these famous city nicknames in geographical order from North to South:

A) Alamo City
B) Emerald City
C) Windy City
D) City of Angels

Well, I thought I was incredibly slow in determining that the order was B-C-D-A... but obviously underestimated the fact that nobody seems to know that Seattle is the Emerald City. As a result only 6 people in the entire audience (of several hundred) even got the correct answer, let alone in the fastest time. So they flash the bottom 5 seat numbers up on the board, and my number wasn't there... but I was sure I got it right... just as they flash up the fastest time in Seat 326, lo and behold, I had won and was going up to be in the hotseat. Anyway, I had my moment in the spotlight, made it up to the 32,000 point level and missed the 64,000 point question... but it had to do with literature, so I don't feel bad at all. It's not like one I *should* have known. haha. As a result, I won 10 pins (for each of the point levels I reached), a hat, a polo shirt, and a lanyard. All in a days work. :) It will go well with the ones I won at California Adventure at Disneyland when I also reached the 32,000 point level.

After the entire family went on the Tower of Terror, Amy and I went on the Rock'n Roller Coaster. An excellently thrilling 90-second ride.

In front of the Tower of Terror

I also enjoyed the Muppet mayhem at MuppetVision 3D. It's a 3D show that includes all of the Muppet craziness.

With some close-ups of Bunsen and Beaker

Chatting with Statler and Waldorf

Tomorrow is planned to be a full day at Epcot, which will be most excellent. Plus I'll get to visit the Universe of Energy ... and you can count on a picture of that. :)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Disneyworld Day 3

OK, so this is going to be short as I'm tired, and no pictures because I'm too lazy to upload them tonight.

Today was yet another day of adventure, but we gave up on the whole idea of getting up early and going out to the parks. So by about 11:00am we got moving and went over to the Magic Kingdom. By we, I mean my parents and I, as Amy decided she was going to be stubborn and stay in the room and sleep. Of course, those of you who know Amy know that her stubbornness shouldn't be of any surprise whatsoever. She is reading this over my shoulder and telling me it's not stubbornness it's sleepiness... I think it's the same thing if you consider the reason she was sleepy was because she was too stubborn to go to bed when the rest of us did. :P

The weather today was probably no warmer than it's been the past two days, but it sure felt like it. Maybe it was just more humid during the day than anything else. While at the Magic Kingdom today, we had a torrential downpour (and I'm not talking Seattle rain, I'm talking BIG rain). We ducked onto the closest ride, and found ourselves taking a trip on the Jungle Cruise in the pouring down rain. Quite entertaining actually, it really made it feel like we were going through the jungle, complete with the skipper telling really bad jokes. :)

After a day filled with a lot of going from ride to ride not to get out of the rain, but rather to get out of the heat, we hopped onto the monorail and went over to the Grand Floridian resort. Shall we say, tres swank. Dinner for the four of us was $175, and of course, completely free for us as it was included as part of our package. We of course would never eat there if we WERE paying, but can't argue with free. After dinner, looked around the resort, and absorbed all of its swankness we could handle, then went back on the monorail over to Epcot. We arrived no more than an hour or so before it closed, but found just enough time to go on the Test Track ride, which is essentially what it sounds like, you ride a car through this simulated test course. After that we wandered over to watch Epcot's nighttime spectacular, IllumiNations. I reiterate my opinions from previous visits that this is indeed the best show Disney has ever created. Outstanding!

The rest of the evening wasn't much to shake a stick at. I wrote 5 postcards, am writing this blog, and then going to bed. Tomorrow's adventures (complete with pictures, I promise) will include the Disney-MGM Studios, and one of the other great Disney-created rides: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Wahoo! Off to bed. I think I'm finally adjusting myself to Eastern time... probably just in time to be forced to adjust myself back to Pacific time. Ah the joys of travel.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Disneyworld Day 2

Day 2 at WDW, our first full day, was started off with us all coming to the realization that it takes more than just one night to reset your internal clock 3 time zones away. So getting moving by 8am didn't actually happen as planned. Fortunately as it turns out, it didn't matter much anyway. Well, actually, I should back up a few hours to 2:00am. That's the time when Amy's luggage finally arrived and was delivered to the room. Of course by this time everyone was asleep... but that's the way it should be I'd guess.

Once we actually got moving we were off to the Animal Kingdom for our first day of theme park excitement. We were off to the Animal Kingdom, the newest of the WDW theme parks. (Of course, by 'newest' I mean it is about 7 years old.) While I can't say too much exciting about it, it's really not much more than a Disney-fied zoo. You do see some animals quite close, which is a nice touch. This giraffe literally walked right past our vehicle in the Kilimanjaro Safari ride (one of only a handful of actual rides at AK.)

We spent the majority of the day there before heading over to the nearby resort the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we had dinner. It was a very unique buffet which had a lot of different African food, but really quite tasty. Here's a view looking out from the AK lodge:

After dinner we headed back to our hotel with the intent to go to Epcot later this evening, but decided to just relax instead. We've got 6 more days here, I think we'll have plenty of time to see everything we want to see. That leaves me right here, blogging the somewhat eventful day and ready to get some sleep. Tomorrow's adventures are the Magic Kingdom, that scaled-down version of the Anaheim institution known as Disneyland. With a little sleep we all should be energized enough to make it through the day. :) Vacations can be such hard work...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Disneyworld Day 1

It's finally happened... I'm on VACATION! As I write this I am sitting in a hotel room at the Port Orleans Riverside resort in fabulous Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We arrived here at about 5pm Eastern time, at which point the 80+ degree heat and 80+ percent humidity felt somewhat pleasant. Now at about 11:30pm, it feels incredibly muggy. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Relatively few snafus on the first day of travel. Amy's friend Liz took us to the airport and we arrived there just after 7:00am. Since we had already checked in for our flight online, all that was left was to check our bags (painless), get through security (equally painless), and wait for our flight (as painless as waiting can be). Then came the 5 hour flight to Orlando. At least it was non-stop, which makes it a lot more bearable. I mananged to watch 5 episodes of West Wing on DVD on my laptop over the course of the flight and all was well. We arrived and used WDW's new "Magical Express" service that (a) takes your luggage straight from the plane to your hotel room, and (b) provides you bus transportation from the airport to your resort hotel. This turned out as painless as ever, as we checked in at the Orlando airport and our bus was immediately there ready for us to board. That timing was probably more luck than anything else, but I'm certainly not complaining.

No more than an hour after we stepped foot off of the plane, we were checked into our hotel and in our room. Of course, our luggage would be delivered a few hours later, so we went to dinner at the restaurant in our hotel. Part of the reason we decided to come to WDW at this time was the package deal they were pushing that included their Disney Dining Plan for free. Basically this means that all of our meals are paid for: a snack, counter service (food court-type) meal, and a table service (restaurant) meal each day. The dinner we had tonight included our choice of literally anything on the menu, an appetizer, entree, and desert for each person. There was so much food! We got our bill at the end of the meal... if we had actually PAID for the meal, $150.23 (gratuity included). Our cost: $0.00. None of us could even eat the dessert, so we took home two pieces of cheesecake and two slices of pecan pie in togo boxes and stuck them in the fridge in our hotel room. Ugh. I'm going to be sick on this trip, I can already tell. :P

We returned to our room after dinner, to rest briefly and check if our luggage had been delivered yet, but no luggage. They said to expect that the luggage might not arrive for up to 3 hours after you check-in, so nothing to worry about there. We hopped on the Disney transportation buses and went down to the Downtown Disney outdoor shopping area. It was nice, bought some souveniers at the mammoth World of Disney store, and browsed some of the other stores. Eventually we took a boat back up the Sassagoula River (Disney-made, of course) that connects Downtown Disney with our resort. Confident that our luggage should be in the room by now, we got to the room and lo and behold, 3 bags of luggage sitting just inside of the room. But wait... we checked 4 bags in Seattle. Something doesn't add up! Oops, Amy's bag was no where to be seen. So I head down and we talk to the bell services gentlemen, and finally one dude who knew what was going on looked it up in the computer and found that it only arrived in Orlando at 10pm. They said it frequently happens that if the plane is overweight in Seattle, they'll just start pulling luggage off to make the weight work, not that they particularly care whose luggage they pull. Most likely Amy's suitcase was pulled and it ended up on the next flight down which arrived around 10pm. Either way, Amy doesn't need to freak out anymore because it should show up at our room by around midnight. Of course as I write this, it's currently 11:56pm EDT.

Unfortunately, no really good pictures today, but expect another update in the next day or two that will contain more exciting picture updates. Until then, I'm going to try to go to sleep since I'll be getting up at about 7:30am EDT or, uh... 4:30am PDT.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Amazing Race 8

Amazing Race 8 starts tonight. In continuing my new-found tradition of capturing the ongoing saga of the Amazing Race, I've created a separate blog for it at

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who watches daytime television?

It's interesting seeing what goes on in the world when you take a day off from work in the middle of the week. First of all, there's nothing really exciting on TV during the day... or else it just doesn't much appeal to what I want to watch. Except for The Price is Right... THAT I live to watch when I'm on vacation. :) But either way, it makes me think exactly who DOES watch TV during the day. It's pretty easy to figure out if you think about it... who else wants to know exactly what kind of people is watching TV at a certain time? The advertisers, of course! So what kind of commercials did I see? Well, commercials for toys, commercials wish spokesmen like Ed McMahon or the "I've fallen and I can't get up" or as I like to call them "scare the old people" commercials, and commercials for lawyers "If you've been injured, you deserve money, call us now and we'll get you the money you deserve."

So let's see, that gives us 3 prime demographics... little kids, old retired people, and people who don't have a job (either because they were injured, or because they're just too lazy to work). Sure, there are others like myself watching, but I'm not who the commercials are targeting. It all makes sense once you think about it, but doesn't leave me wanting to sit at home on a day off instead of just being at work.

Switching gears to Husky Football... the one week I don't actually blog about the game with my sure-fire predictions, we actually win (albeit against Idaho, who looked terrible). So I almost believe that I shouldn't make a prediction, because that way we have a better chance of winning tomorrow. The one thing that I'm sure of is that Husky Stadium will be louder and more full than it has been in the past several years. I believe that the Huskies actually have a chance of beating Notre Dame this weekend, even though I don't believe it's actually going to happen. :) Regardless, my prediction for this week is (since I always predict a Husky win):

Huskies 27 - Irish 24

Monday, September 12, 2005

What's wrong with Ocean's 11

So last night Ocean's 11 was on TV, so I watched it. Not to say I haven't seen this movie a dozen times already, so it gave me a lot of time to overanalyze how the plot at the end of the movie makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever. Now I realize that creative license must be taken in order to make a movie work, and that is fine--I still think it's an excellent movie--but there are some things at the end that make zero practical sense (plausible, yes, but ridiculous) that just leave me wishing the script writers could have tried a little harder. Case in points:

1) The "pinch" they use to knock out power to the entire city of Las Vegas... but only for 30 seconds. I'm not an electrical engineer, so I won't comment on the feasibility of the concept. I bought it as face value that some device could emit an EM pulse that knocked out all electricity in the entire city of Las Vegas in the blink of an eye. What I don't buy is that it all would miraculously repair itself in a matter of 30 seconds and come back on without any perpetual damage whatsoever. Not a chance.

2) Even through the end of the movie, Benedict doesn't notice that his "double-secret vault codes" that he put in his jacket pocket are missing. He's gone to the fight, found out somebody's broken into his vault, but STILL doesn't connect the dots with his missing codes. Surely he would have needed to use the codes just to get back into his super-secure vault complex, yet he just walks right in after he knows it's been broken into. No, don't buy it.

3) The key element of the vault that lets Benedict know he's been had: the Bellagio logo on the floor of the vault entrance. This is the most ridiculous scenario I could ever imagine. First, this vault was built several years ago, (which by the way is connected to the cages at the Bellagio, Mirage, and MGM grand, which is about a mile down away from the other two, but I can overlook that), and now he has this logo put on the floor of the vault where he "had it installed last week". WHAT?!! Did he trust a bunch of construction workers to just come down and tear up the floor to put in a new logo while there was $100 million sitting next to them in the vault? Did he just happen to have decided that the solid black marble floor was not gaudy enough and he needed to put the Bellagio logo on the floor of the vault (that, as we recall, serves not only the Bellagio, but Mirage and MGM as well)? And furthermore, last week he installed it, but none of the 11 who have been watching his own vault using his own security cameras noticed that he installed this logo on the floor, which blew a hole in their plan to stage a fake heist of his vault? No. I buy this the least of all. Ridiculous.

But like I said, it's still a good movie. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Other than making any comments regarding yesterday's football performance by my Dawgs --which completely blew my prediction out of the water -- I will instead practice my sports headline writing. The headline in today's Seattle Times was: "A giant U-turn for UW". This was far less inspiring than I would expect from the Times' sportswriters. Instead, I offer the following alternatives:

"A game Bear-ly worth mentioning"
"Another un-bear-able performance"
"Husky defense pleads guilty"
"California 56 - Washington hopeless"
"UW Football: 20 seconds of excitement"

OK, so my headlines weren't much better. This just in from the random fact department: UW-Cal game attendance: 57,775. Smallest crowd in Husky Stadium in 19 years. But bonus points for being a palindrome.

And that's all that needs to be said of Husky Football until next week.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Go Dawgs! Beat the Bears!

Last week's debacle in the fourth quarter against Air Force didn't do wonders for proving my prediction abilities. So this week we will try again.

I predict that Cal will succumb to the awesome forces of Husky Stadium. I predict that Cal's loss to the Dawgs will mark the beginning of the Bears' return to prominence as the perpetual bottom-feeders of the Pac-10. I predict Husky Stadium will be a thundering behemoth on the Montlake landscape. I predict that the Huskies will be victorious, and thereby secure a "no-worse-than-last-year" record for the 2oo5 season.

Therefore, my gameday prediction is:

Huskies 21 - Bears 17

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Adventures and sunburns

Well not too much of note has been happening this week... but yesterday we had a "team building" excercise at work. My team spent the entire day out on a boat crusing around. We started in Anacortes then went down through Deception Pass and back up the Swinomish Channel past LaConner and various other nice little places. It was fun, despite the fact that I got a wee bit too much sun on my head... I guess I'm just a casualty of a fun day "working". :) A few pictures I took on the trip follow.

A bald eagle standing on some mud flats we passed

Deception Pass

Houses I'll never be able to afford

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Husky Football Kickoff

Well we've finally made it to that time of year again. The first weekend of the college football season. Saturday will kick off the 2005 Husky Football season, which we can only hope will be a fair bit better than last year's 1-10 season.

First, may I make a hearty recommendation for the entertaining comics (though I hear they're called "graphic novels" these days) at In its second season bringing high-quality Husky Football parody humor. :)

Now, this season opener for the dawgs will be an "away" game at Air Force... played in none other than scenic Qwest Field, home of the Seahawks. I honestly don't know what to expect from the dawgs this year, but I'm sure it'll be better than before. In Tyrone Willingham's debut as coach of the Huskies, I expect a stellar performance. I'm not saying I expect to SEE a stellar performance, but I expect one nonetheless. :) It'll be an exciting game to watch regardless, and all things considered, I will make this week's prediction:

Huskies 31 - Falcons 24

I'll say up front that I always predict the dawgs to win... because I've seen too many upsets to believe there's any game that we have no chance. Go Dawgs!

Monday, August 29, 2005

The many conclusions of Annie

I have been informed that I have been neglecting my civic duty to update this blog. So, apologies for the lack of updates over the past several weeks.

Last week I went and saw the Broadway touring production of Annie. I must say it was well done, the music as catchy as ever (especially with a live orchestra), and the cast was quite entertaining. The actress who played Miss Hannigan was absolutely hilarious, though had hair that made her look sorta like Ursula from the Little Mermaid... or Don King... but I digress. Of course, the girl who played Annie did yet another excellent job. And thank goodness that only for the last scene of the whole show does her hair have to look like your typical "Annie" style with the, how do you call it, curl-fro? It looks so much better short and straight like it was for the rest of the show. But I had a point for bringing this up... oh yes... the ending.

Now I've seen one other stage production of Annie a few years back at the 5th Avenue Theatre, as well as being subjected to the 1982 movie production of Annie, starring Carol Burnett at Miss Hannigan, probably hundreds of times since it was one of my sister's favorite movies to watch on video. Oh, yes, one of those that we taped off TV, so it was complete with the commercial breaks with the fabulous 80's commercials. Ah the memories. Anyway... it amazes me how they all have roughly the same plots, but they all ended differently. The one I'm probably most familiar with, the movie, is of course, dramatic to the point of insanity with Annie attempting to escape by climbing a drawn railway bridge... whatever. In hindsight, that's got to be the most superfluous use of drama I can ever imagine. The musical is much more sedate, and apparently true to the playwright's intentions. The bad people are caught without any excessive drama, only a bit of comedy. Annie isn't successfully abducted and there is not a city-wide manhunt to find her. Miss Hannigan is hauled off to jail as she rightfully should be for being a mean and evil fraud (in the movie, somehow she makes a miraculous return to good graces at the end). It just amazes me how everything tries to be over-dramatic... without needing to be so. I'm trying to remember exactly how it ended in the show I saw at the 5th Avenue, but I think it was just somewhere in between. More dramatic than the show I saw last week, but certainly less dramatic than the movie.

I'd say more, but I think that's about all I have to say about it. I guess I had expected that to be more interesting than it ended up, but that's OK. I guess I'm just out of shape after putting off my blog for so long.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cards, cards and more cards

It's amazing how many cards people carry around with them. Membership cards, discount cards, identification cards, library cards, bank cards, useful information cards... they're all there. Everyone wants to give you a card, that you can easily stick in your wallet because it's "so convenient". Of course, the result I've found is that you end up with your wallet busting with cards that you actually use maybe once a year, if ever. Then, you've got a whole bunch of old cards that you just can't bring yourself to throw away (what if you lose your current card for some reason, you could use your expired one in the meantime!). So I have no less than about 25 of these cards in my desk drawer, because they're nice -- souvenirs perhaps -- and you just dont' want to throw them out.

What if there was a better way? I understand things like credit cards, you need those and you can't do anything about that. But what about having some sort of "Universal Membership Card" that can serve as all of your non-critical non-identification cards... you know, your library card, your AAA card, your Costco card, everything. You could have this UMC that had your name on it, and some generic UMC number. Then ANY company who wants to use it as their form of id card, can use it. Give it a barcode, magnetic stripe, the works... anything anyone could possibly want. The good thing for the user is that you can have the same membership number for a whole bunch of different things. The good thing for the companies who use it... they save money by not needing their own cards, all they have to do is link into this card that everyone has already! It's perfect!

Suddenly your 25 cards or so, drop down to maybe 5 or so (Your UMC, but along with that you still need your credit cards, official identification, etc. But not every Joe-membership-person who wants to give you a card.)

Hello world! I hereby place this idea in the public domain... someone run with it! But don't profit off my idea or I'll sue your pants off! Muahahahah!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Lame List - 8/3/2005

In deference to Almost Live, that classic Seattle television comedy institution of years gone by, I present a new recurring segment in the Universe of Synergy: The Lame List... or, "What's Weak This Week."

* TV end-of-season cliffhangers that make you wait 3 months to find out how it ends
* Professional darts
* Decks of playing cards that don't come with jokers, or just have one
* Kathy Griffin
* Styrofoam packing peanuts
* HTML code written with FrontPage
* Split infinitives
* Credit card offers that come in unmarked, non-descript envelopes
* European date formats (dd/mm/yyyy)
* Time zones
* Phone books (printed)
* Dial-up internet access
* Pennies

If you have a suggestion for The Lame List... the comment button is below. :)