Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's Almost Done

Well, it is another late night and I don't really have the motivation to write much - but Coco is getting closer to being finished. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

And now to get some sleep...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Amping....Finally!

Todd and I finally got around to getting some more work done on the amp tonight. We have both been extremely busy with summer vacation, travel, and work-work but we are finally getting back to finishing off the current prototype.

We are now tolexing the cabinet and I must say it is going to look pretty sweet when it is done. It is late so I'll be brief - but when it is done there will be more I promise. Here is a teaser of what it looks like so far:

We're calling her Coco.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rush Rocks Toronto

I just got back from seeing Rush at the Air Canada Center (or is it the Roger's Center now?) in Toronto. The music was awesome, the light show was awesome, and the audience was awesome. What a band. As it turned out, every member of the band I am in with my brother ended up getting tickets so we all got to see the show. It was pure music and none of the rock-star bullshit. You'd never hear "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" out of Geddy Lee. In fact, they didn't communicate much with the audience at all but that was fine. It was all about the music anyway and that's just the way I prefer it. They seem to have a really good sense of humor as well (the South Park cameo was especially entertaining) and they come off as a bunch of down-to-earth guys. I'd love to go for a beer with them sometime and jam. ;)

I decided to take the motorcycle to Toronto tonight because it was such a nice day. The drive there was a little hellish with all the traffic and construction and I was very sweaty and tired when I finally arrived after almost 2 hours fighting traffic. The ride home was awesome though as driving back at night was the perfect temperature, and it was dead calm outside. It was quite a nice ride, even if my bike isn't all that comfortable, and it only took me about an hour.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just Installed Cherokee

So after struggling with Jetty recently, I have decided to go back to basics and install Cherokee. Apache2 is so freaking complicated and bloated now, I have been using Cherokee instead as it is super-lightweight and super-fast.

Now I just need to add some web pages. ;)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Drive Home

So, after our Disney vacation was over we began the looong drive home on Saturday. The first day was very smooth and we made it to a very nice (and very new) hotel in North Carolina that was right next to a winery. As it turns out, the hotel is owned by the winery and has a wine bar and everything. It was a very pleasant (and very brief) stay and we are thinking about perhaps going back sometime to stay and tour the winery. It would be a very nice drive in the fall after the trees have changed color.

Although, after our second day I'm not sure I could take that drive for quite some time. The second day seemed to drag on *forever* and right about 4:00pm I was sick of driving. We didn't get home until about 10:30pm that night. You can imagine how long those 6.5 hours felt...

The only good thing about the second day was the brief stop at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. Our CAA route actually told us to avoid highway 19 due to excessive speed enforcement, but we took it anyway because it was shorter. I'm glad we did because that was probably the most picturesque part of the entire drive. We stopped at the scenic rest area here and I took a few pictures.

After that it was just grinding away the miles until we were home. It's good to be back.

Day #5 - Magic Kingdom (again)

For our last day we decided to go back to the Magic Kingdom and re-visit some of the rides and attractions we missed in our previous visits. It was a pretty slow-paced day and there isn't much to report (and my motivation to post is waning quickly...).

We started the day with the Country Bear Jamboree. It was not what I remembered - but Drew seemed to enjoy it. We then went on a Jungle Cruise that was filled with non-stop (extremely bad) jokes and puns. We then headed over to Tomorrowland and on the way snagged a couple photos with Pooh and Tigger.

In Tomorrowland, Rhiannon and I went on Space Mountain and I thought my head was going to be knocked off the whole time by a rogue girder in the dark. We then watched the Carousel of Progress just to see if it was any different from 20 years ago (it isn't...we'll still be using voice activated ovens in the future) and tried to pick up a couple more rides on the way out (although Splash Mountain was shut down for the day - GRRR!).

That is about it. You can check out my Picasa page for pictures. Day five starts here.

Day #4 - MGM Studios

For our fourth day at Disney we hit MGM Studios. I don't have a lot of photos of this day as we mostly went to shows and I shot a lot of video instead. When we first arrived, we started with the The Great Movie Ride. It was interesting, but I think the kids found it boring. It made me want to see a bunch of classic movies I still have never seen like Casablanca, as well as some classic film noir.

Next (and the order may a bit muddled here...) we saw Muppet Vision 3-D, which was another interactive 3-D movie. I think the kids liked that one. Then we went on Star Tours - the ultimate Star Wars thrill ride. This was a simulator that was quite realistic (though still not as good as Soarin'). It was very well done and I enjoyed it, but we could not convince Drew to get on it as the entrance was a little dark and scary.

Next we decided to sit and wait for the Lights, Motors, Action!™ Extreme Stunt Show and eat lunch. It was quite a show. Here is one of the videos I shot. Very impressive driving indeed:

What I found incredible was the heat from the fire at the end. We were near the top of the stands, but when the flames erupted there was a wall of heat that hit us. I would think the people down in front would have least uncomfortable.

The other movies are here:

After that we went to yet another show - Indiana Jones ™ Epic Stunt Spectacular!. It was quite entertaining - especially the volunteer they got from the audience who claimed he was Patrick Roy from Ontario, Canada. Here is one of the videos from this show:

And links to the rest:

After Indiana Jones we decided to go and see Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but it was kind of disappointing. It really was just one room full of Narnia stuff but we did get to see a preview for Prince Caspian.

We then did some pictures with a few characters for the kids. Drew got to see the Incredibles, and they loved his shirt:

Then Rhiannon and I tried to go on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster but it was closed for repairs. On the way out the kids stopped off in the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" Movie Set Adventure and played for a bit. This was a pretty cool play area that made you feel like you were shrunk in the back yard.

After that we headed for the exit and went back to the hotel to rest for our last day at Disney.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lazy in North Carolina

Well, we are halfway home and are in a nice hotel in North Carolina with *real* internet access (right next to a Winery - although we'll be leaving too early to enjoy a tour!) but I am too lazy to try and catch up commenting on our vacation. I'm going to wait until I get home before I comment on the last couple days at Disney and then I'll attempt to post the rest of the videos and pictures.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Day #3 - Magic Kingdom

Wednesday we went back to the Magic Kingdom. We started off in Tomorrowland and did the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor comedy show. It was really cool, and I actually saw my evil twin. There was a guy there that looked exactly like me! I tried to get a picture of this guy but there was never a clear shot. The comedy show was quite funny and must have been done with improv actors hooked up to some sort of motion capture rig to time their speech and movements to the characters on the screen. It was really quite well done. And the best part was they singled out people in the crowd for questions and jokes. They even singled out my evil twin but I didn't have my camera on! They also put the spotlight on Rhiannon and made her part of the show as well but I couldn't get my camera on in time to get it on film. ARGH!

After the Monsters Inc. show we went to a Lilo and Stitch ride that was also labelled dark and scary and Drew refused to go on it. It was a good thing because after the DINOSAUR ride, it would not have been a good choice. We then went to Mickey's Toontown and rode a fairly tame roller coaster that scared the ba-jeezus out of Danielle (although she did want to do it again). After that we saw the Swiss Family Robinson house, and then unexpectedly ran into a pirate tutorial put on by none other than Jack Sparrow himself along with his trusty side-kick!

It was very funny and entertaining and Sharon was given a hug as the "Governer's Daughter", although I just missed it on film as I was focused on Jack leaving. Once again, Drew played shy and refused to volunteer. He could have actually been in the show and maybe even traded blows with Jack Sparrow himself if he had gotten lucky, but he was simply too shy. Perhaps if we go back we'll try to catch this show again and convince Drew to get up there.

After that we all went on Splash Mountain to cool down (it was almost as hot as the day before), then took a Liberty Riverboat tour, and headed home for another swim and some dinner.

I apologize to anyone reading this for the lack of timely posts but internet access sucks here. I still have to annotate this post and then I have two more full days to catch up on plus I have yet to upload a ton more photos and videos; and we are leaving tomorrow morning to start the two-day drive home. Perhaps I can catch up in the hotel room tomorrow night - otherwise I'll just have to do it after we are safely back home.

Day #2 - Animal Kingdom

For our second day we decided to hit Animal Kingdom. We started off first thing in the morning and it was already brutally hot. There was very little shade to be found throughout the day and everyone was grumpy from having such a long day the day before, combined with the extreme discomfort from the heat.

We started our day in the Africa section and immediately went on an African Safari. We saw quite a few exotic animals such as rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebras, an ostrich and some nile crocodiles. We had to stop for a few minutes and wait for a baby giraffe to move off the road out of the way of our vehicle. The truck we were in was quite open and I couldn't help but think about how little it would take for a lion or some other animal to jump out of the trees (sometimes only a couple feet on either side) and give someone a good swipe. The contrived clash with fictional poachers complete with gunfire was mildy amusing and was enough to confuse Drew.

After the Safari we took the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch and had some lunch. We saw a demonstration about snakes and we got to touch a huge Python. After that, Simon and I went on the Expedition Everest roller coaster, which was pretty cool. Then we all went on the Kali River Rapids ride, which was a huge tube that went down a Disney-made river complete with burned out forests and white water rapids. The ride was kind of neat and we got wet enough to cool us down, but it was very short. As we headed back through "Africa", there was a really cool limbo show which I recorded.

We decided to end the day by heading to the dinosaur portion of Animal Kingdom and we went on a ride called DINOSAUR. It was kind of a cool ride where you were teleported back in time to drive a rover in the jungle and look at dinosaurs. The head scientist was Clair Huxtable (it is kind of funny to see all of these Hollywood actors doing Disney things), but the premise of the ride was that the lab technician dude has secretly rigged the time machine to bring back a dinosaur with you, but he has timed things dangerously close to the asteroid strike that wipes out the dinosaurs to begin with. Anyway, you can imagine how it turns out. This ride, while cool, was a complete disaster. We asked them going in if it was suitable for kids (all the rides have big warnings on them, but most of them are not warranted) and we were told if they went on Pirates of the Carribean then this would be OK. What a mistake. This ride was extremely loud, full of strobe lighting, and really freaking scary for kids. Drew completely *flipped out*, and once the ride had started there is obviously no way to get off. We managed to make it through but Drew was a complete mess afterwards and we figured he would never go on another ride again.

At this point we were all hot and tired and ready to go home. We side-stepped another parade, but were caught at the gate by Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy all available for pictures and autographs. I honestly don't know how those actors do it in those suits. They were there in the blistering sun catering to line-ups of screaming kids (and parents). I was only there for a total of maybe 20 minutes waiting to snap photos of Rhiannon and Drew with all four characters and I could have sworn I could actually smell my flesh burning. We finally got out of the park at about 4:45pm, and found the car. It had been in the parking lot all day and was unbearably hot inside. The temperature gauge was reading 38 degrees Celcius outside BEFORE THE HUMIDEX! It was freaking hot. How do people live down here? Anyway, we all piled into the car trying not to burn ourselves on the seats while the air conditioning kicked in and headed back to the hotel for a nice swim in the pool to cool off.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day #1 - Epcot, Pirates, and Princesses

Our first day at Disney was going to be a long one. We had signed up for a special Pirate and Princess party in the evening (starting at 7:00pm and going until midnight) for which they were closing the Magic Kingdom. Thus, for our first day we decided to hit Epcot and make it a relatively short day. We packed a lunch and headed to Epcot (although we didn't actually get into the park until about 11:30am). We hit a bunch of the attractions, the majority of which were not particularly thrilling, but a couple of them did stand out.

The first notable attraction was Honey I Shrunk The Audience. It was a 3D, interactive experience based on the popular Disney movie series. The cool part about this attraction was the fact that the entire movie theatre seating was movable, and matched what was going on in the movie itself. It was quite well done, and you actually felt like you were being lifted, dropped, and shaken. There were also times where certain things happened in the movie and the seats would blow air or water on you to simulate what was going on (for instance, one time there was an army of mice rushing up the theatre floor and jets of air blew from under the seats to make you feel like hundreds of mice were brushing alongside the back of your legs). The ending was especially fun (I won't spoil it for anyone who plans on going to see it).

The other cool ride - and my vote for best ride of all time - was Soarin'. It is a newer attraction at Epcot and it is basically an ultra-realistic flight simulator. You are strapped into a seat which is raised about 10 feet off the ground and placed in front of a huge movie screen playing various aerial scenes. The fact that your entire peripheral vision is taken up by the massive screen, combined with the synchronized control of the seating to make you feel like you are turning, rising and falling (and it does an amazing job of fooling your senses) results in an ultra-realistic experience that had *everyone* cheering - even the kids! There are times where you actually thought you could dip your toes in the water as you sail by, or that you needed to pull up your feet to avoid them being whacked off as you zip over the peak of a mountain. It is really a breath-taking experience and the best ride I have ever been on by far. It was simply awesome.

So that was our *day* in a nutshell. We zipped back to the hotel for a quick dinner and then headed back to the Magic Kingdom for the Pirate and Princess party. This was really Drew's only reason for coming - he wanted to meet Jack Sparrow. He was supposed to be available for a meet-and-greet and autographs, but the lady we met in the Monorail on the way in (she was dressed like a wench from Tortuga...and she happened to work at Disney) told us that we had best go straight to see Jack as soon as we got off the train and expect to wait a minimum of 2 hours! We made a beeline for the Jack Sparrow line as soon as we got there and to our amazement we were the first ones there! We were told to wait a minute, and the guy working the door went in to check to see if Jack was ready. He came back out and motioned for us to follow him inside. We shuffled into a dark hallway and I felt like I was being led in to meet Colonel Kurtz. We all filed into the room and there was Jack. Drew was so star-struck that he just stood there staring at Jack and never said a word. Pictures were taken - like this one:

...and we were eventually led back out, at which point Drew was so excited he immediately said to the guy working the door (who happened to be dressed like a pirate and wearing a plastic sword), "FIGHT ME!", and started swinging at him wildly. The guy pulled out his sword and started to defend himself and we pretty much had to pull Drew off of him a few minutes later after he had backed the guy into a corner. Here is a video of the event:

Immediately after that Drew was asking to see Jack again so he could talk to him. He obviously regretted not speaking to him when he met him in person, but it was too late to go back as there was undoubtedly a huge line at that point. We decided to hit the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as an alternative where we saw animatronic Jack no less than three times. We then hit a bunch of different rides and Rhiannon, Simon and I went down Splash Mountain. We ended up getting stuck inside the middle of that ride for about 20 minutes with a stupid Disney tune playing incessantly in our ears, over and over and over. It reminded me of my first EclipseCON at Disney Land in California... But the ride was soon fixed and we finished and moved on. I was surprised at how many rides the kids went on with me - the last time we went to a theme park they wouldn't go an anything! Around about this time the fireworks started. It was a really good fireworks show, although not very long, and the fireworks were coming from every angle. There were also quite a few fireworks that lit up the entire Magic Kingdom as they went up. It was pretty neat.

The only issue we had was Drew constantly attacking complete strangers with his sword. If there was a Disney worker with a sword that showed any hint of play-fighting, Drew was in there whacking away. But the worst was when a father and son were in the midst of a very tame, mock swordfight and Drew just ran over and started wailing on the dad. Sharon was trying in vain to pull him off and I came over just in time to grab his sword arm as he was about to decapitate the poor fellow.

At this point it was getting extremely late into a very long day and we decided to head home. Unfortunately we could not find our way to the exit. After we did manage to get our bearings, we were completely blocked from leaving the park by a parade. I have to give it to the Disney people - they definitely know how to overwhelm you with constant stimulus. The parade was just over the top, and every float had a flawlessly choreographed dance number preceding it. And of course, who was near the end of the parade on top of a huge pirate ship? Jack Sparrow of course. We spent the entire trip to the exit chasing the Jack Sparrow section of the float, with Drew yelling at Jack trying to talk to him. Unfortunately, Drew went mostly unnoticed but I think he felt like he made contact. We finally managed to get around the end of the parade, and make it to the monorail and later the tram to our car, and we arrived home just before midnight.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Yeah, where's the Conce de Neon Mall?

So, this summer our family vacation has turned out to be a Disney get-away in Florida. It's been awhile since I have commusicated, and getting an internet connection is kind of a pain in the ass as there is no internet in our condo unit - I have to drive up to the main building to get a connection - but I will try to post some stuff here as I get time.

We started our drive down right after work last Friday and made it across the border to Erie, PA on the first night. We then drove from Erie to Charlotte, NC on the Saturday, and finally through to Orlando on the Sunday. All-in-all it was a great drive - much better than I was expecting! Once we hit Florida, the roads started to suck and there were two fairly major accidents we had to stop for, but the rest of the drive was great. The country was beautiful - especially Pennsylvania and West Virginia - and the roads were pretty much abandoned (and most of them were new pavement)!

Before we left I bought the kids each a Nintendo DS Lite, and a couple R4DSes complete with 2GB micro SD cards to go with them. I ripped a few movies and converted them to a format that the DS could play, and I also bought a couple games (I actually *found* some ROMs as well for some variety...). I can't say enough about the R4DS. It does everything it claims, and it is a great product. Having Teletubbies and High School Musical 1 and 2 on a hand-held unit was more than enough to keep Drew happy. And Rhiannon had enough games to keep her occupied for a couple days as well. The only real issue was that we found out Drew gets very car-sick when concentrating on playing games in the car. It's weird as he can watch movies just fine, but the minute he starts playing a game - he will start to get ill after about 30 minutes. We actually had to stop for about 1.5 hours on the Saturday before we were able to give him some Gravol and he drifted off to sleep for the majority of the afternoon. While we were stopped, I happened to snap this photo:

Now, at first glance this looks like a very touching and poignant photo of a child crying on his mother's shoudler at the foot of a 911 monument. One could imagine a family who's father may have perished as a result of those horrible attacks. However, closer examination reveals that the child is wearing a Harry Potter robe and a Jack Sparrow headband complete with simulated dreadlocks. There is also a plastic bag on the mother's lap, and with some imagination one might realize this is actually a photo of a kid who is crying because he is car-sick from playing too many video games on his way to Florida, and they happened to stop at a mall that had a 911 memorial in the parking lot and his father - who was very much alive - was capturing the whole event on film!

Anyway, commusicating takes so much damn time I had better wrap this up. I have uploaded a bunch of photos to my Picasa page, but I'll leave it to another post to explain our first couple days at Disney. We totally lucked out and Drew got to meet Jack Sparrow in person - and saw him many times after that - but that's another story...

Oh - and you may be wondering what the heck is with the title of this post? Well, let's just say that is a private joke that goes waaay back to when I went to Disneyworld as a kid, and you'd have to be a member of the family to get it. ;)