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76 entries from July 2005

A little less magical?

The article from Bug's comment on my earlier post, Roller-coaster accident injures 15 at Disney's California Adventure theme park (Sat 07/30/05 08:56).

New York Times: Some Ask if the Disney Magic Is Slipping
By CHARLES PASSY

MAYBE it was the rollaway bed that didn't materialize because it was suddenly deemed a fire hazard.

Or maybe it was the manager who called and apologized for the mistakes—at nearly 1 a.m.

But as tipping points go, it was hard to top the bill with a $750 error—in the resort's favor. Such a mistake was proof positive that something was terribly amiss, leaving my wife and me to ask, "What kind of a Mickey Mouse operation is this?"

It was a question meant in the most literal sense. We weren't staying at some budget motel off the Interstate. We were spending more than $300 a night for a one-bedroom "turn-of-the-century style vacation villa" at Walt Disney World's one-year-old Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. But we were experiencing little of the celebrated Disney "magic," that bend-over-backward brand of service. Instead, our family vacation was turning into a part-nightmarish, part-comical adventure that I quickly took to describing as Disney meets "Fawlty Towers" meets the "Twilight Zone."

And apparently, we weren't the only ones on this ride. To hear some other guests tell similar stories of inept service at Disney World theme parks and resorts is to realize the Mouse may no longer be as mighty.

[Continues at NYTimes.com...]

All posts about injuries or deaths in Disney theme parks (most recent listed first):


Astonishing display of music-library geekery

So I was going through my Safari bookmarks file after I noticed I had a folder in there marked Check later! and I hadn’t actually done so in, hell, probably several months. Long enough that some of the links in there I don’t remember putting there nor do I remember why I wanted to save them, but anyway.

One of the links I stumbled over was SmartPlaylists.com, a forum of sorts where people display sometimes astounding inventiveness for using iTunesSmart Playlists features to sort and shuffle and otherwise manipulate their (sometimes enormous) music libraries. I’ve been using Smart Playlists for some time to put all my similarly rated songs in single playlists and to shuffle through rated but not recently played songs, for example.

Then I found a link to Jens Baumeister’s The mother of all smart iTunes radio stations at SmartPlaylists.com.

Spent about 20 minutes setting up the various smart playlists it needs. The method is based largely on ratings which are automated to some extent; it also pays attention to how recently a song was played, or if it was added to your library within the last two months. Via the smart playlists, two AppleScripts, and a regular job run via Anacron for Mac OS X 10.4, this setup now will adjust ratings based on which songs I play a lot, which songs I skip, and how recently the songs have been played.

Over the next few weeks I expect to hear a ton of music I’ve had in my library for months, in many cases, but haven’t listened to in ages, and I figure the ratings will end up representing my tastes and playing habits more accurately. Right now I have just 424 songs rated in a library of just under 9,500 songs—only 4% or so, argh—and the ratings skew heavily toward my favorite artists of the moment and several all-time-favorite artists. I have never given the entire library a good going-over and this automates that process in large part.

Check it out for yourself: The mother of all smart iTunes radio stations | Jens Baumeister - Freier Autor. It does require a bit of familiarity with the OS X Terminal, but it’s very well spelled out just what you have to do.

Go ahead, get your own geek on. :-)


Lunch remains

Flickr photo sharing: Lunch remains
Lunch remains
From Don Nunn's photo stream
Patio at McMenamins in Mill Creek on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, not a cloud in the sky.

A couple pints of Ruby ale and a glass of water with my carnitas burrito... yum!


Roller-coaster accident injures 15 at Disney's California Adventure theme park

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: 15 hurt in Disney roller coaster collision
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANAHEIM, Calif.—One train rear-ended another on the "California Screamin'" roller coaster at Disney's California Adventure theme park Friday night, slightly injuring 15 people, authorities said.

Most of the victims had minor neck and back injuries, Anaheim city spokesman John Nicoletti said. "At this point we don't have a cause," he said of the 6:30 p.m. accident.

Forty-eight people were on the ride at the time of the collision, Nicoletti said. Fifteen people, including two children, were taken to a hospital; the rest were examined at the scene and released.

The Disneyland Resort issued a statement late Friday saying Disney officials were "taking all necessary steps to help those affected by this incident."

It was the second accident in four months at a Disney park in Anaheim.

In March, a 4-year-old boy broke a finger and severed the tip of his thumb while on a Disneyland ride called the Storybook Land Canal Boats. The child's fingers became pinched between the boat and the dock while passengers were unloading.

In December, four people were hurt when a float at a Disneyland parade struck four people.

See also The Disney Blog: Images from KNBC.com of Coaster Collision.

All posts about injuries or deaths in Disney theme parks (most recent listed first):


"Gentlemen" don't kidnap people at gunpoint

Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving work I turned on my usual news-radio station just in time to hear breaking details about an AMBER Alert that had just been issued in the alleged kidnapping of a Federal Way woman, her 3-year-old daughter, and a 16-year-old female family friend.

The kidnappers were alleged to be the adult woman's estranged husband and two male accomplices, and the police spokesperson kept referring to the suspects as gentlemen, as in "These gentlemen are not known to be armed...." and similar statements.


Links: Jul 28, 2005


I expect to hit 15,000 by this time next year

I found out just now, via a crash of my PDA and ensuing restoration attempt, that my calendar contains nearly 11,000 records.

These records date back to Jan 01, 1999, which was when I began tracking my life electronically in any meaningful (read: supremely nerdly) way. I received a Handspring Visor Deluxe for Christmas 1998 but backorders and shipping delays meant I didn't have it in hand until January 1999, and from that point forward I started keeping somewhat casual track of my workdays and my personal life—movies I saw, when, and with whom; dining times, places, and companions; travel locations and purposes, along with dates; and so on.

That was also the time when I was getting promoted through the ranks of the help desk at the managed-care company where I worked, and I found it handy to synchronize my handheld to my work email/calendar program so I'd have a ready reference for employees' days off and other scheduling information.

I'd say maybe 45% of the records from 1999 to 2002 are direct results of my job. To that point I was pretty lax in recording personal events, but when I left Salt Lake City in March 2002 I began noting personal events much more carefully. Now the events breakdown runs I'd guess 75% personal, 24% work events, and 1% random things like news events I want to remember or historical anniversaries I like to track.

Man, what geekery the last six years of my life represent.


more bouncy balls

Flickr photo sharing: more bouncy balls
more bouncy balls
From sem's photo stream
Some obscene number of bouncy balls released to the wild.

How cool it would have been to see (and hear!) this in person. And this small photo does it no justice; click through to the larger sizes for best appreciation.


Several Salt Lake Tribune articles about the reality of membership growth in the LDS Church

Interesting series of articles. One excerpted, links only to two others for now.

Keeping members a challenge for LDS church
Mormon myth: The belief that the church is the fastest-growing faith in the world doesn't hold up

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune


The claim that Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in the world has been repeated so routinely by sociologists, anthropologists, journalists and proud Latter-day Saints as to be perceived as unassailable fact.

The trouble is, it isn't true.

Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 12 million members on its rolls, more than doubling its numbers in the past quarter-century. But since 1990, other faiths—Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God and Pentecostal groups—have grown much faster and in more places around the globe.

And most telling, the number of Latter-day Saints who are considered active churchgoers is only about a third of the total, or 4 million in the pews every Sunday, researchers say.

For a church with such a large, dedicated missionary corps constantly seeking to spread its word, conversion numbers in recent years tell an unexpected story.

According to LDS-published statistics, the annual number of LDS converts declined from a high of 321,385 in 1996 to 241,239 in 2004. In the 1990s, the church's growth rate went from 5 percent a year to 3 percent.

By comparison, the Seventh-day Adventist Church reports it has added more than 900,000 adult converts each year since 2000 (an average growth of about 5 percent), bringing the total membership to 14.3 million. The Assemblies of God now claims more than 50 million members worldwide, adding 10,000 new members every day.

Links to other stories:


Links: Jul 26, 2005


No wonder Rocky likes his pub crawls

I've added the location map/image links.

hightimes.com: Marijuana Growing in Planter on City Hall Grounds
Source: radio.ksl.com

SALT LAKE CITY (KSL News Services)—Marijuana has been found growing in a planter on Salt Lake City's Main Street and on City Hall grounds.

City gardener Maryanne Siegendorf says that when crews find the sprouts, they just pluck them and dispose of them with other weeds.

Siegendorf hasn't called the police because the plants are too small to interest authorities. Siegendorf believes the marijuana is planted as a prank.

City crews weed flower beds every couple of weeks, which doesn't provide enough time to grow smokable dope.

Gardeners also have come across marijuana plants in years past at Liberty Park and Jordan Park's International Peace Gardens.

Via IM with my friend Matt


They oughta roll out a billboard to find the next church president

CNN.com: Bachelor's friends use billboard to find him dates

UT bachelor billboard
A billboard on Interstate 15 in Utah solicits potential dates for Lance Archibald.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP)—Friends say Lance Archibald is a tall, handsome former college basketball player and graduate of Harvard business school.

He's also still single at 31, and so they're hoping to speed things up with a billboard and Web site.

"I'm Lance, Let's go out!" reads the billboard on an interstate near Lindon, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.

"It kind of came out of discussions we had, that Lance is such a good guy but not married," said Morgan Lynch, CEO of LogoWorks, where Archibald is the director of marketing. "Someone threw out the idea of getting a billboard."

So why the concern over Archibald's marital status? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members typically marry in their early 20s, the 31-year-Archibald is approaching the male-equivalent of an "old maid."

We bit Seattle. Or drank it, anyway

After the Seattle Storm's 74-71 victory over the Detroit Shock, we wandered outside to the Seattle Center grounds and joined in the festivities of Bite of Seattle.

This is an annual food festival, which to my mind implies, well, food. However, our main experience was wall-to-wall people. So damned many people, in fact, that maneuvering a stretch of walkway that unhindered would have taken no more than about 30 seconds instead required nearly 10 minutes. So we found a beer/margarita garden near the Hispanic-music stage and camped out there much of the afternoon while the bar girls brought us beer and 'ritas and we watched the utterly fascinating people pass by.

I wandered around part of the festival a while later. Figured I'd head toward the booths near the Pacific Science Center, partly because that's where the strawberry-shortcake booth was, and when I noticed I'd required 20 minutes to clear about 300 yards of walkway, I decided to hell with it and returned to the group in the beer garden.

Lesson learned: Next year, go on Friday. Or possibly Sunday. But avoid Saturday at all costs; it's just not worth fighting the slow-moving crowds, and I swear if my ankles were hit by one more goddamned stroller I was going to kill someone.


To believe the weatherwonks?

I like the Wunderground forecast for today, if it turns out to be right:

Morning low clouds...then becoming mostly sunny. Highs in the 70s. Light wind becoming northwest near 10 mph in the afternoon.
Every weather forecast I've heard for the past several days showed today in the low 70s and sunny. This morning we've our usual cloud cover, however, and yesterday that resulted in a bit of a downpour as I made my way to work.

Ah well, no big loss either way.

The radar looks clear and we can always find indoor entertainment if anything gets out of hand.


My Saturday afternoon

Busy day:

First at the Seattle Storm game versus the Detroit Shock at KeyArena at 13:00.

Then we'll step outside to the Seattle Center to wander around Bite of Seattle's many food booths and beer gardens.

If you're in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by. The line-up of restaurants and food companies looks pretty tasty and the weather should be just about perfect for jostling through crowds for a few hours.


RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

Another letter from The Management today, with a great big [sic] noted here so I don't have to slap it into the letter text a few times:

Dear Valued Residents

We are proud to be the new owners of The Hawthorne Apartment Community. Our company name is United Dominion and we own adn operate all of our communities.

I must say that The Hawthorne acquisition is very exciting for us and we are looking forward to meeting you in the near future. In fact, please keep your eyes open for an invitation to our meet the manager open house that we will be having very soon.

Your new Community Director is, Rebecca Wheeler, her assistant is Claudia Martinez and the marketing agent is Angela Kjelvik. We are happy to notify you that Anthony and Todd have joined our team, so you will recognize your service staff.

Please feel free to stop by the office any time to introduce yourself to the staff.

We look forward to a long and committed relationship between you, our very valued residents, and us, your very service committed staff.

Sincerely,


Carolyn Celis
District Manager

United Dominion sounds like something right out of Star Trek. I half-expected them to talk about reversing the polarity of the phase-induced power couplings or something similarly faux-technical geeky.

But I'm happy to know we're all so very valued.


I hate it when I can't find a DVD

I've a coworker who'll be out soon on a medical leave and wanted to borrow a few DVDs to help pass the time.

So I got home tonight with The List and quickly started gathering up the five titles she'd requested, two of them (boldface below) among my all-time favourite movies:

Only I can't find A Knight's Tale anywhere, and IT'S DRIVING ME FREAKING INSANE!

So for friends and family who read this:

Do any of you have ANY CLUE where the hell that DVD is?

My sanity depends upon finding it.

UPDATE Fri 07/22 11:40: Katharine has it. Apparently I lent it to her and completely forgot about it.

Maybe I'm insane already and just don't know it yet.


My apartment’s been sold

Well, the entire complex has, anyway.

I opened my front door after work today to find this notice, which I geekily reproduce here typos and all:

NOTICE TO TENANTS
July 21, 2005


Dear Valued Residents of The Hawthorne at Mill Creek:

We are pleased to announce that as of the date of this letter, Wakefield Northcreek LLC (former owner), has sold its interest in the Property to United Dominion Reatly Trust (new owner). Consequently, Pacific Living Properties, Inc. will no longer be managing the property.

Your security deposit held in trust at Wells Fargo Bank has been transferred to Bank of America.

We thank you for your residency during our management & hope that you will continue to have a positive experience as a resident of The Hawthorne at Mill Creek.

Very truly yours,
PACIFIC LIVING PROPERTIES, INC.

By: <signed>                                     
Del Parry, Regional Property Supervisor

So the notice we got a few months ago about management entering our apartments, which I later found out was to make an inspection for refinancing purposes, was a precursor.

As usual, we’re to expect nothing new with this. My lease doesn’t end until January 31, 2006, so I have a ways to go before I’d see any rent increase from this. I’ll be curious to see what absurd rate they try to foist on us at renewal time.

And how’s your Thursday?


Concert, sternutation, unremarkable shower

Saw the Indigo Girls in concert last night at South Lake Union Park, part of the Summer Nights concert series previously held on the Seattle waterfront.

The venue was nice if a bit too awash in Cingular’s sponsorship orange. I was looking around before the show started and realized the area where we chose our seats (it was all general admission; we were about halfway back on the floor-level seating area in the center) put us about smack in the center of the pavilion where we had dinner when we attended the Wooden Boat Festival on Jul 04, 2002, and watched the Lake Union fireworks from one of the best ground-level viewpoints in the area. Unbidden, the memory of the vendor-booth layout at that Festival popped into my mind, and for a few minutes I expected my aunt (she’s a wooden-boat surveyor) to appear with several of her wooden-boat-enthusiast friends.

Didn’t happen, of course, and I returned to the now. The opening act was a New York-based band called Girlyman, two women and a man who sounded pretty good with their acoustic instruments (though the man played an electric guitar, but not overpoweringly) and their harmonies. They also participated in several songs when the Indigo Girls took the stage and the five made a decent match; the choice of songs certainly helped (and the opening-band members typically did backup or additional guitars/percussion).

I like bands such as Indigo Girls because I know many of their songs and they’re within my range, so I can sing along without fear of hurting dogs’ ears or inducing insane rage in nearby humans. The whole crowd sang along to most of the show, of course, so even if I’d been horribly off-key or whatever, my voice would’ve been drowned out by the enthusiastic crowd.

Show ended just before 22:00 and we walked (well, flowed initially; the crowd moved in this oddly undulating way) out of the venue and back to Julie Anne’s Queen Anne apartment. Hung out on her balcony facing Lake Union for a while and I got home a little before midnight, just in time to experience a sneeze fit from hell as I crawled into bed.

Same thing this morning: Got to work, settled into the day’s routine, BAM six sneezes in a row. No idea what caused it, I haven’t been snorting dust bunnies or inhaling flowers or anything. Usually when I go into such respiratory fits in the morning, it happens in the shower, but today’s shower experience was blissfully danger-free. I even shaved and have no amusing/horrible story to report from it.

On, then, to the hump-day grind....


Incendiary rodents

The Seattle Times: Squirrel fires regular occurrence in Canadian border town
The Associated Press

OSOYOOS, British Columbia—Once again, a squirrel clambering onto a power line has been blamed for a brush fire in this border town north of Oroville, Wash.

Firefighters were summoned Monday after a squirrel scrambled up a Fortis Inc. utility pole, got zapped and landed in flames on some dry brush outside a fruit packing business, Fire Chief Ross Driver said.

By the time a pumper truck and a bush truck arrived, nearby residents had doused the flames.

"This identical incident has happened on the same pole one or two times a year for the past several years," Driver said.

Each time, firefighters find a dead, burned squirrel at the base of the utility pole, he said.

Driver said he didn't know what Fortis could do to prevent future squirrel-caused fires.

The story's URL includes the phrase pyrosquirrels, made me chuckle a bit.

(Google Maps: Oroville, WA and Osoyoos, BC for anyone else who may not have heard of them before this charming story)


My jaw is cramped

Yesterday’s shaving mishap seemed minor at the time, hardly worth mentioning to anyone and certainly not worth publishing for anyone to see, so of course that’s why I’m mentioning it now.

So while I was shaving in the shower yesterday, the muscles on the left side of my jaw cramped up horribly, just below my left ear. Never experienced that before. I had tightened the left side of my neck, the better to avoid slicing my carotid as I scraped the day’s whiskers, and out of the blue I was in this my-own-jaw-inflicted headlock of sorts as the cramped muscles tried to draw my head toward my left shoulder. It didn’t hurt but the tightness and my inability to get the muscles to relax for about 30 seconds kinda weirded me out.

Yesterday afternoon and much of today, my jaw’s ached. Yawning’s a bit of a pain, not so bad because I don’t yawn all that often but the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was stretch and yawn in the luxurious way I relish first thing in the morning, and instead I yelped and had to rub a knot out of my jaw.

Jaw cramps? Just what evil is this?


Links: Jul 17, 2005


Several new things

I spent a sizable chunk of the day in downtown Seattle, prowling neighborhoods where I hadn’t spent a lot of time and reconnecting with one of my oldest friends.

Drove down in the early afternoon and parked in a garage on Pike between 7th and 8th Streets. Wandered around the downtown retail area for a while before making my way east on Pike toward Capitol Hill, where I ended up at Six Arms (Google Maps), one of McMenamins’ downtown Seattle locations. I’ve driven by it a dozen or so times over the last few years but never been inside until today, and I find I’ve been missing out.

One thing I like about the McMenamins in Mill Creek (Google Maps) is its relatively larger size and its bar-in-the-center layout. Has a nice patio too. But in the summer it gets pretty crowded with families, and the kids get bored, and when the parents are a bit tipsy they ignore the kids, and the kids start running around or making annoying noises or being otherwise general pains in the ass, and that pisses me right the fuck off. So while I quite like the outdoor seating on the nice days of summer, the child quotient kills it for me.

The Queen Anne location (Google Maps—though it’s actually on the northwest corner, not northeast as the map indicates) has a kids-friendly seating area on the east side of the pub, so I always grab a table or a barstool at the furthest westerly point I can manage. I haven’t had any screaming-children-from-hell experiences there yet but it’s so small overall, the noise levels can be deafening even when the place is only half full.

Six Arms, however, has a cool layout with a bar and tables and booths on its main floor and an upstairs seating area with smaller tables. A big open-air design, chandeliers everywhere, huge windows facing west so your face burns off in 30 seconds when the sun suddenly appears from behind clouds and it takes a bit of time to drop the shades. I had a few pints of Ruby, my standard McMenamins beer choice, and some tater tots, because of course I wanted to eat as healthily as I could manage. With the beer I had electrolytes and the tater tots gave me my daily ranch-dressing allowance, so I was set.

The party at the booth next to mine afforded me my first taste of the amazing people-watching in the Capitol Hill district. It was a group of what seemed like 30 dozen women of varying ages and body types but all with amazingly similarly spiked hair and enough metal chunks attached to and pierced through various parts of their bodies to swing all the compass needles around. The odd part, though, wasn’t the way they looked; you see pierced and otherwise decorated personages around Seattle all the time. What was odd was their conversation, snippets of which I overheard ranging from one woman’s problems finding a suitable day-care facility for her seven children (!) to another’s difficulty with her manicurist who can’t seem to find a nail-polish color to match her brushed-steel eyebrow and neck piercings (!!) and a third’s lamenting the lack of a properly talented tattoo artist to give her the permanent nipple shadow she wants. (!!!)

NIPPLE SHADOW.

But anyway. I was also fully engaged in television coverage of a game of lacrosse, which is a pursuit that absolutely mystifies me, and I was flipping through the pages of Seattle Weekly and not paying much attention because I had beer all around me and the server also was quite chatty and amiable. I don’t know her name, of course, but she got a $10 tip on an $18 check (I love happy-hour pricing!), so she must have rocked utterly.

Eventually it was 19:40 and I decided it was time to wobble up the road further into Capitol Hill to see if I could finally locate Frites and my friend Corey Allred. I last saw Corey oh, I’d guess almost two years ago—it was right around the one-year mark of my arrival in the Seattle area the first time—and he’s now a year and a half into the Frites business with his buddy Anthony. I’ve been in the area since January and only now can I finally say I’ve tried their product, and I hereby declare:

Oh. My. God.

Seriously. You have to rush right down to 10th and Pike and crowd into Frites and get a cone with the one included sauce, but try others. I had a couple tonight and they were both delicious, and the frites are this astounding mixture of textures: crisp outside and tender inside and not greasy and mildly flavored, letting the sauce flavors shine through but equally delectable on their own.

All right, enough with the gushing. Suffice it to say they’re damned good and you should brave the craziness of parking in Capitol Hill (or do what I did, park a ways away and enjoy a pleasant stroll into the area) to give these things a try.

I arrived before the crowds who would be filing into Neumo’s later, so Frites only had a dozen or so customers the couple hours Corey and I stood around catching up, but when I left at 21:15 the people-watching was getting good again. I don’t think I’ve seen that much ink on skin any other time, except perhaps the time in my high-school graphic arts class when the printing press sprayed dark blue all over me.