Thursday, February 26, 2009

Denver - Day 7

A late night and an early morning.  I think I got about 6.5 hours of sleep, and morning came around way too soon.  We had the last men's draw this morning, followed by one women's tiebreaker that was necessary for seeding.  At 4pm today we have one men's tiebreaker as well, followed by the 8pm 1v2/3v4 playoffs for the women.  Fortunately, I don't have to work until the 8pm draw tonight, which means naptime is coming up soon. 

And things are getting a bit hectic around here, as NBC just arrived and they're going to start getting things ready to broadcast the semi-finals and finals live on UniversalSports, their new all-Olympic sports station.  You can find it in Seattle on Comcast channel 115, or over the air (if you have digital antenna) on 5.2.  Check local listings for other stations.  For reference, the schedule is:  

Women's Semi-Final: Friday 4pm MST (3pm PST)
Men's Semi-Final:  Friday 8pm MST (7pm PST)
Women's Final: Saturday 10am MST (9am PST)
Men's Final:  Saturday 3pm MST (2pm PST)

I'll be on the ice working the Friday 4pm and Saturday 10am draws, so feel free to look for me if they get bored showing coverage of the teams and I happen to walk by. :)  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Denver - Days 4-6

So busy I haven't had much of a chance to blog updates.  When I've been in the hotel room, it's been mainly to sleep.  But I have a few minutes here so I thought I'd update the past few days.  

Monday was business as usual, working a few draws and finding times to eat and sleep when it was convenient.  

Tuesday was my day to go do some things around Denver.  I started out by heading down to the U.S. Mint and taking a tour.  After going through a fairly intense security screening just to get in the door, we were taken on a short (about 20 minutes of actual stuff to see) walk through a observation deck where we could see the presses churning out pennies by the thousands (through some hefty glass, so we couldn't get our grubby little hands on them).  It was interesting to see the mint in action, and quite a bit of historical coinage and artifacts were on display, but overall I was unimpressed.  The tour was so constrained, there wasn't a whole lot to see and it just wasn't really worth the trouble, I think.  But I did it, so there.  

After that, I walked back downtown to the 16th Street Mall, which is the main shopping street through the middle of downtown Denver.  It's a pedestrian-only street, with the exception of some extremely convenient shuttle buses that continuously travel up and down the street, so you can just hop on and off as you want to quickly get from one end to the other.  Quite impressive.  

I went to the far end of the street, where I found the Colorado State Capitol building.  As it has become one of my quirky trip traditions to stop at every state capitol I come to, I went inside and wandered around the entire place.  Being a weekday, the house and senate were both in session, and I wandered into the viewing gallery to see a bit of the Colorado legislature in action.  They have a partial museum up in the lower part of the dome of the capitol which I went up to see, though unfortunately you can't climb all the way to the top of the dome, there was a viewing deck at the bottom of the dome.  Pretty interesting.  State Capitols are always fun to visit.  

I did some shopping on the 16th Street Mall and worked my way down to the other end of the city and over to Coors Field.  Not much going on there, but it was good to stop by and see where it was.  Finally made my way back to the car and left downtown.  Upon additional recommendations, I decided to drive all the way up to Fort Collins to check out the New Belgium Brewery.  Just a mile away from it happens to be where one of my sisters works.  I stopped by but she had already left for the day.  In any event, I've been on quite a few brewery tours, but the New Belgium brewery tour was by far the most entertaining I've ever taken.  Just a fantastic place.  

Tonight after I finished officiating at the early draw this morning, I drove back to Loveland, just south of Fort Collins, to meet up with my sister and have dinner with her.  It was good, mainly because if I went to Denver and didn't meet up with her, I'd never live it down.  :)  But we had a good time, and then I came back and here I am.  Now heading back over to catch part of the late draw at the trials before finding some more sleep.  Pictures to be posted later, it's always something.

More to come...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Denver - Day 2 and 3

It's been a relatively uneventful first couple of days here at the Olympic Trials.  Getting into the groove and not getting too much relaxing in at this point.  My initial impression that this wouldn't be much of a vacation has been so far true.  I put up a few pictures that I snapped tonight.  Nothing too exciting there either. I'll try to take some better and more interesting shots later in the week.  

This area (Broomfield, CO) is actually quite nice.  I definitely ended up with a winner with the hotel here.  Free made-to-order breakfast every morning (unfortunately, I'm not much of a breakfast person, so it's not exactly the most thrilling feature, and this morning I actually had to be out of here before they even opened), but the biggest advantage is that I'm not more than about 3 minutes away from the ice arena.  Brilliant.  I haven't had too much time to see much else, but expect to make it into the city on Tuesday.  The high altitude hasn't affected me much at all, though fortunately drinking lots of water and staying hydrated I think has helped that a lot.  What HAS bothered me is the dryness.  My hands especially are getting chewed up, and I need to constantly remember to put lotion on them or else they will die.  

Time to get some rest before the 6:30am alarm goes off.  Why is it always that I get up earlier when I am on vacation than when I'm not.  Something is seriously wrong. :)  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Denver - Day 1

Thus begins a series of blogs on my 8 nights in scenic Denver, Colorado.  I'm here primarily to officiate for the US National Curling Championship / Olympic Trials.  I worked the day today then caught a 6:45pm flight, which departed a few minutes late, but other than that was relatively uneventful.  

Arriving in Denver, I was greeted with sub-freezing temperatures.  All indications were that it had snowed earlier in the evening.  So after my luggage finally coming out, I headed outside to catch the shuttle to the rental car place (which is not so conveniently nowhere near the actual terminal).  After waiting outside in the 22-degree or so cold for about 15 minutes, the shuttle finally came and we made our way to the cars.  I ended up with a red Prius hybrid, at least that's what I think I unearthed when I froze my hand brushing off the layer of snow and then scraping the ice off the windshield and ungluing the wipers.  10 minutes later, I figured out how to turn on the silly car and how to use the 50 bazillion buttons and knobs.  I swear, I think this thing is more complicated than the space shuttle, and at night it looks like mission control, with the actual dashboard, plus the whole touchscreen that controls all of the audio/climate control/engine status, and then my life-saving GPS that I threw up on the dash next to it.  Finally we had liftoff, and I zipped out of the parking lot and on my way (getting something on the order of 40 mpg).  So then I had about 35 miles to get to Broomfield, not realizing that the shortest distance between two points involved toll roads.  $13 in tolls later, just after midnight local time I managed to made it to the hotel.  

Now the hotel I got on Hotwire.  If I was going to be here 8 nights, I wasn't going to pay a whole lot a night.  So with my luck, I ended up with an inn just a mile away from the ice arena where the competition would be.  The front desk closes at 10, but they had left an envelope with my room key out front (there are only 16 rooms here) and I made my way into the nice warm room without any problem.  This room is about as nice as some studio apartments.  King-sized bed, sink, microwave, minifridge, couch, gas fireplace, internet... can't complain too much for the $45/night I'm paying when the going rate for the room is about $129.  I'll take some pictures later.  

Well, at this, I need to get up in just over 7 hours.  Day 2 will continue tomorrow with the opening ceremony and first day of competition.  It should be interesting to see the arena all set up for curling.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Lion King

Last night I attended the touring production of The Lion King at the Paramount.  While this show has been around for a while now, this is actually the first time I've seen it.  While some shows have brilliant music (which tends to be weighted much more highly in my reviews than other factors), this show definitely had what I would consider one of the greatest theatrical experiences I've seen.  

As I think back to when The Lion King animated movie originally was released--which turns out to be 1994 believe it or not--I can't tell you how many times I've seen the movie over the past 15 years.  I'm pretty sure I have the original movie soundtrack on CD somewhere around, though haven't listened to it in ages.  But if you're expecting the musical to have the same music as the movie, you're partially mistaken.  Sure the big numbers from the movie are still there, but a handful of new material has also been added, which frankly contributes a lot to the musical production.  Obviously the story line is mangled a bit for the stage, cutting out some filler from the movie and adding some new material to tie up the loose ends.  

I so often use the term "theatrical spectacle" to describe shows that may not have the greatest music or story lines, but more than make up for it in the visual stage experience.  This show is the rare package deal, with great music, a reasonable story line, and the show to go with it.  It's no surprise, given that Disney produced the stage show, that the experience is as amazing as it is.  As a connaisseur of the finest theme park attractions Disney has to offer, think of this show as its own 2.5-hour ride that they delivered to the theatre.  

Despite all of the great things I have to say about it, I can't say it's the best musical I've seen, or even one that I'd choose above others to see again if given the option.  In this case, it's definitely a show I'd say everyone should see once, but now I've seen it and don't really need to see it again.  Not that I wouldn't, but I wouldn't be chomping at the bit to see it.  

Onto the ratings...

Music - 5 Stars - The songs were great, and you could listen to them again.
Cast - 4 Stars - Rafiki, Scar and the young Simba were definitely the high points.  
Technical - 5 Stars - The mark of a true Broadway spectacle
Story - 4 Stars - It is what it is
Overall - 4 Stars - But you should see it anyway. :) 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TV Commercial Roundup

It's been a while since I did a roundup of interesting TV commercials.  So once again for the benefit of you Tivo users who may not have seen any of these, here's what you've been missing.  

Now, this is an old one now, part of PEMCO Insurance's "We're A Lot Like You" campaign.  This was probably the first of the series that I remember seeing, which is why I remember it so well.  But here's the twist, I just saw this commercial again today, and they've renamed it "Relentless Recycler."  Other than that the commercial is identical.  Was some obsessive-compulsive recycler not flattered by the commercial and wrote a nasty letter to PEMCO?  Has "obsessive-compulsive" got such a negative connotation that it's an insult?  One must assume...

Premiering during this year's Super Bowl, Jack gets hit by a bus.  No surprise for a company that has constantly thrived on its creative advertising campaigns.  As expected, this latest twist has it's accompanying website, and is sure to follow with a whole series of related commercials.  

Another Super Bowl ad, but this one gets credit for a different reason. MacGruber, a recurring sketch from Saturday Night Live parodying MacGyver, broke out of late-night and into the world of television commercials.  Being the big MacGyver fan I always have been, I've found these sketches quite hilarious, but the added bonus this time is the appearance of Richard Dean Anderson himself... and can I just say, MacGyver does not age well.  Oh yeah, and there's some product promoted too, but that seems irrelevant. 

Venturing into the world of infomercials, I hate to give Vince (more popularly known as the ShamWOW guy) any more credit than what he doesn't remotely deserve, but suffice it to say... he's baaaaaaaccckkk!  Yes, this time with SlapChop.  Forget the fact that you've seen this exact product advertised before under a different name.  Ignore the fact that this guy thinks he's the next Billy Mays.  And join with me in hoping this is the LAST infomercial he does.  "'Cause we can't do this all day." And someone can strangle him with that ridiculous headset mic he wears.  That's all.  

Monday, February 09, 2009

Jim Henson exhibit coming to EMP

Opening May 23rd at the EMP/SFM at Seattle Center, Jim Henson's Fantastic World.  As described on the website: 
The exhibition features 100 original artworks, including drawings, cartoons and storyboards that illustrate Henson’s talent as a storyteller and visionary. Among the variety of exhibition objects are puppets and television and movie props, photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work and original video productions, including excerpts from Henson’s early career and experimental films. 
Very cool.  This will definitely be a must-see for me.  Only running for a couple of months, from May 23-August 16th.  Check it out.  

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Olympics Tickets = Legalized Extortion

This morning, CoSport, the exclusive US ticketing agent for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, "released" their "remaining" (or so they claimed, at least the tickets they didn't think they could sell as part of "hospitality packages") allotment of individual tickets for the games.  

Almost immediately, the ticketing website was completely bogged down.  By now all of the individual tickets are gone, leaving only the "hospitality packages" to choose from.  

Ah the Hospitality Packages.  So obviously I took a look at the Opening Ceremony package, which consists of:  
  • (1) ticket to Opening Ceremony, category A
  • (1) additional event ticket "of your choice" (to be chosen from a few underwhelming events that nobody really cares about)
  • (1) ticket to the Sunday Victory Ceremony
  • (1) pass to the "Hospitality Area" (to eat and drink with all the other rich people who paid too much)
All for the low, low price of Four Thousand Twenty-Three American Dollars.  $4023?!  So if you have 4 people who want to go, that comes to just over $16,000.  YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS!  I honestly believe that you could get a better deal from the ticket scalpers!  

Absolute, certain, no-doubt-about-it, 100% extortion.  On President Obama's route to untangling the mess of the BCS, I might recommend he make a stop at the USOC and see what he can do about money-grubbing ticket brokers.  


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jury Duty - Done

To finalize the uneventful story, after another hour of waiting, by around 2:45pm, just as I expected, the final case of the day was not needing a jury, so we were all happily dismissed and thanked for our service (in my case, two days sitting in the room).  

If I had anything interesting to add, I would.  But alas, I'm more just tired from sitting around the past two days.  Well, tomorrow we're back to normal.  Thank goodness.  

Jury Duty - Day 2

9:30am - We're still waiting in the jury room to be called up to the courtroom. I have this suspicious feeling that it will be a long long day today.

9:33am - No sooner have I written the last update as we're informed that they issued a continuance on the case, eliminated the need for a jury at this time and we're all back in the general jury pool again. That being the case, this might be a long and boring day today afterall. I can now say that the "very directed questions" on the supplemental jury questionnaire all related to history / experiences with child molestation with strong indications that a long trial might ensue. We'll see what new and improved cases are left on the docket today.

10:00am - And here we continue to sit. Oh the excitement. No announcement yet though just by nature of me saying that I'm sure we'll hear something in the next minute or so.

10:55am - The natives are getting restless. No new news since the break so we're all still sitting around. Though it is becoming a little more active around here. The gentlemen behind me are swapping old jury stories... just like swapping old war stories but with far less death and destruction. I proceeded to do as much work as I could from here, which mainly consisted of following up on email. I wish something would happen too. I left my laptop in the car this morning, expecting to at least be sitting in court all day. Perhaps I'll fetch it at lunch. My iPhone's battery may not hold up all afternoon anyway.

11:30am - Two cases left on the jury docket today.  They thought they'd be ready to call juries before lunch, but now the wheels of justice have turned so slowly that's no longer the case.  So we're out to lunch until 1:30pm.  Fully expecting that at 1:30pm we'll have at least one jury list called, and hopefully I'm not selected. :)  

12:30pm - Went across the street to get some lunch at Chipotle, stopped by my car and picked up the laptop bag, and now I'm relaxing in a very empty jury assembly room working.  It is now I commentate on the privilege of excercising my civic duty.  If only I weren't so busy, I would have no problem at all being on jury duty.  In fact, usually I'm not so busy that I can't take a few days to do it every couple of years.  But in fact, this time it's not the best time at work to not be there, and it's busy.  But my being here is necessary to make sure the system works fairly and as it was designed to in the Constitution.  If everyone who had to work avoided it, we'd have juries of the unemployed and retired deciding cases, and if I were the accused, that sure wouldn't sound like an impartial jury of my peers.  But is it wrong of me to hope, just a little, that I don't get selected for a jury this time around?  That my mere presence in the jury selection pool is upholding my Constitutional mandate?  Is it indeed an honor NOT to be selected?  We'll see.  

1:35pm - Back from lunch, no news is good news?  No announcements, save the lady sitting next to me repeatedly popping her gum and making noise with her little handheld sudoku game.  Do these things not have sound-off switches?!  I digress... waiting for more news of the final 2 jury panels.  Oops, a bailiff just walked in delivering something, that's not a good sign.  And here comes the jury clerk to make the announcement... 35 names this time.  5 names down, 10 names down, 15 names down, 25 names down, 30 down, 35 down!  Not me!  Dodged another one!  One jury panel left to be called, "sometime this afternoon."  All I need is for this to get delayed at least until tomorrow, and it becomes someone else's problem.  Tick tick tick.  

Monday, February 02, 2009

Jury Duty - Update 2

1:30pm - back from lunch and immediately they're ready to call the next juror pool, 50 names this time.  10, 20, 30, 40, 50 names called and I dodged the bullet again.  Yes!  Sounds like that should be the last for the day.  

2:30 - The 50 are finally heading out the door, but wait there's more.  They have one more case with 50 more jurors.  Shoot.  Well, that makes 164 names for the day, and I hardly think I can dodge the last 50.  10 names down, 20 names down, 25 down, maybe I have a chance of avoiding it again!  Nope, juror #26 out of 50.  The 50 seems strongly to imply that this will be a criminal case of some sort, in fact, we get a special extra questionnaire form to fill out for this trial.  Now, I shant make any comments regarding the nature of said questions until after I serve my jury time, however, let's just say the questions were all of a similar nature lending strongly to the subject of the case that we may be a part of.  But fortunately, after collecting said forms, we're informed that they will need time to review them, and we were all dismissed until Tuesday.  We can only assume that on Tuesday we'll have quite the voir dire to whittle us down to what I presume will be 12 jurors + 2 alternates.  If my calculations are correct, only 12 people need to be challenged out ahead of me in line for me to move into the top 14.  Unless of course, I can be challenged out of the pool, THAT would be stellar.  But I wouldn't count on it.  The problem also is that it sure sounds like this trial will last more than a couple of days, which could be a mess.  Oh well, until tomorrow morning.  

Jury Duty - The next adventure

You know what's sad? When you have jury duty so many times that your blog has it's own category for it. Welcome to my world. Mildly senimental having this jury duty at the same place I had it the very first time. Furthermore the wifi Internet access here is just as terribly unreliable as it was 4 years ago. So this blog post is courtesy of my iPhone and the oddly more reliable wireless network.

Here in Kent it's pretty boring, also as it was last time. We apparently have 3 cases on the docket today and that bodes well for abou half of the 200 or so jurors sitting around me. As it works out, about 10am they called 2 case pools of 34 and 30 jurors each. I'm 0/64 so far. But I am still here hoping that perhaps they'll soon call the third group then send the rest of us home for the day. That would be nice. Of course either way could be a win if I'm lucky. Luck isn't usually on my side.

11:10am - No more cases before lunch.  We're released now until 1:30.  2.5 hours, I think I'll just relax a bit and do some shopping at Kent Station and maybe find some lunch.  More updates later.