The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 29, 2008

Disney World Trip Report – Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 5:08 pm

For the three or four of you who actually read this Blog on a regular basis, you might have been wondering when I was going to get around to writing out the trip report that I promised for the Disney World trip that I went on a couple of weeks ago.  I have actually been working on this, but between the fact that I managed to land just hours in advance of what was predicted to be a possible major windstorm (that fortunately didn’t turn out quite as bad as it could have been) followed by a week of relentless snow and solid ice on the roads with Christmas thrown in there somewhere along the line, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for the Blog in the last week oro so, but now with things settling down (at least until Thursday when the next possible major windstorm and potential snowstorm is set to arrive)  I have some time to start on this.  Those of you who have been reading this Blog for long enough know that I’m notoriously slow with some of this stuff (Crossroads Profile part 2?  What Crossroads Profile part 2?) but I plan to get this done fairly soon, or at least before I end up going to Disney World again, whenever that might be.

I have actually begun writing this in a thread over at DISBoards.com, although I will try to keep things free of the jargon that seems to be common in the trip reports ver there.   This particular post here will consist of the first three parts that I have written over there as follows:

  • Part 1:  The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men:  The planning (or lack thereof) of the trip
  • Part 2:  Slip Slidin’ Away (in which the vacation very nearly gets put on ice before I can even make it off the ground…)
  • Part 3:  Who Have I Gotta’ Bribe to Get Outa’ This Town? (Goin’ to Chicago, and putting way too much stuff on a hot dog in the process)

Note that some of the material here is background info for the DISboard readers, and may be redundant to some of the people here.  In fact, some of this might actually be nearly identical to a couple of the Blog posts below. 

That said, please remain seated at all times, keeping your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle, and please no flash photography.  After the jump, we’re off to Never Never Land.  Or Outer Space.  Or wherever it is you’re supposed to go (well OK, this post will barely even make it to the hotel, but I’m sure we’ll get to some of those places eventually, right?)

(more…)

December 24, 2008

Having Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas Eve

Filed under: Family — Brian Lutz @ 10:57 pm

In a normal year, Christmas Eve is a time for the whole Vanderhoeven family to get together for a big gathering, with the highlight being the white elephant gift exchange (I think the obligatory fruitcake that always seems to find its way into the exchange is now nearing its tenth anniversary.)  Normally, my parents are the ones who host the get-together, but unfortunately, due to the ongoing snowstorms that have made a huge mess of the area for the better part of two weeks now, it was unlikely that anyone was going to be making it up here (well, they might, but getting back out of my parents’ street  in any of their cars would be highly unlikely.)  This means that the usual Vanderhoeven gathering happened in an alternate location, but none of us were going to be able to make it down there.  Instead, we all had a smaller get-together at my parents’ house.  With Jason, Heather and Brooks in town from Utah, it meant that the entire family was here, although our little gathering ended up being somewhat scaled down as a result of the weather.

Since we weren’t going to be able to do the full-blown Christmas Eve that we usually do, we decided to change things a bit.  My Dad happens to have his birthday on Christmas Eve, which means that he often gets shortchanged a bit on the whole party bit.  With Heather around to run the proverbial show, it means that we got the whole thing put together quickly, complete with streamers, balloons, banners, a cake, and even those pointy hats.

Connor and Corey seemed to quite enjoy playing with the balloons.

After a light dinner of cold cut sandwiches, potato salad and a bunch of other snacky foods  (which is usually what we end up having on Christmas Eve at the big family get-togethers,) we gathered in the living room for the scripture reading and carols, which is also typical of the Vanderhoeven gathering, although with less of us there things were a bit scaled down this year.  Corey seemed to be more interested in all the shiny bows on the presents under the tree than in singing (we’ll give him a few more years on the singing.)

After the singing, it was time for my Dad’s birthday cake.  Lighting that many candles requires a team effort in order to complete the task before the candles all burn out, but with three people on the job, it was taken care of before we could set off the smoke alarm.

When all was said and done, my Dad was still able to blow out all the candles without trouble.  Once I managed to find a portion of the cake that hadn’t been gotten hold of by either Corey or Imola (don’t ask,) it turned out to be quite good. 

It’s too bad that we weren’t able to join the rest of the Vanderhoeven Machine for Christmas Eve this year due to the weather, but at least the entire Lutz Family was able to gather together to celebrate Christmas Eve in as close to our accustomed style as we could manage given the circumstances, and we will be able to do so for Christmas tomorrow as well. 

For those of you wondering why we wouldn’t be able to make it, this should give you some idea of what we’re dealing with up here on the streets.  Fortunately, I was able to get my car out of my parents’ driveway on Saturday with the aid of my Dad’s 4×4 towing it up the street, but at this point I’m not even bringing it here since there’s no way my car’s getting  back out of there on its own until this stuff melts.  Earlier in the week when this was still mostly ice, Jared and Emily were able to reverse up the street with the chains on, but in this slushy mess they weren’t going much anywhere, and ultimately needed to get towed out by the truck themselves even with the chains.  As long as the forecasts hold out, this stuff should hopefully be gone in the next few days.  The whole “White Christmas” thing sounds fun in theory, but this year,  Christmas is starting to look just a bit too white for my liking.  Nonetheless, may it be merry in whatever weather you’ve got.

December 21, 2008

I’m Dreaming of a Not-So-White Christmas

Filed under: Redmond, weather — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:23 pm

When I left last Sunday for Orlando and Disney World, the drive from the hotel to the airport was made with an inch of solid ice on the roads, and I encountered several hours worth of weather-related delays along the way, first from deicing the plane before it could leave Sea-Tac, and then from a missed connection that resulted in several hours of extra waiting in Chicago, which added up to get me into Orlando about four hours later than I expected.  Of course, the weather down there was pretty much perfect the whole time, with temperatures in the upper seventies and low eighties, no daytime rain at all during the trip, and basically just a whole lot better weather than we seem to get around here during any month that isn’t July or August.  Of course, I thought that by getting away from here I might be able to dodge the wintry weather up here, but it seems that I got back just in time to hit the worst of it.  I also ended up getting back into Seattle about eleven hours later than I originally planned, although ground transportation would have been a problem at that time (not to mention the commuting mess on the icy freeways,) so it ended up working out reasonably well. 

Fortunately, this last round of storms seems to have not been quite as bad as predicted (for one thing, they were predicting winds powerful enough to cause widespread power outages that seem to have luckily been avoided,) but it was still enough to add another 3-5 inches of snow on top of the stuff that’s already here, and continue to make a big mess out of things (unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make the obscene snow sculpture next to one of the adjacent apartments disappear though.)  Church has been cancelled today (given the fact that the church building is on top of a hill quite a few people were having trouble getting up yesterday, I can’t say I blame them) and yesterday I had to get my car towed out of my parents’ driveway and up their street in order to get it out.  Fortunately, the car seems to be OK in this weather as long as I don’t try to go up anything too steep, but at this point I don’t think I’m going to be taking any chances on that until things clear up a bit.

As for the trip to Disney World, it was great, although I found that four days is a rather short time to try to get everything in there (in fact, I completely skipped Animal Kingdom on this trip, since I just didn’t have time to get to it,) and there are quite a few things that I’ll be sure to do differently on the next trip, whenever that may be.  I will have plenty to write about from the trip, but for the time being I am still trying to get things back in order up here, and I have more than 1,100 pictures to sort through from the trip.  Not so sure I’d want to deal with the airport hassles of going near Christmas again, but I’d definitely go back there somewhere along the line.  Watch for more on the trip during the next couple of weeks or so.

December 19, 2008

They Say You Never Want to Leave…

Filed under: Moblogging, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 8:33 am

Well, I don’t know about not ever wanting to leave here (as much as I have enjoyed this trip, the place does tend to get a bit expensive after a while,) but a little bit of extra time is nice. This morning I was supposed to fly out at about 7am, but about 20 minutes before my shuttle from the hotel arrived I found out that the flight was delayed five hours. After scrambling to make new arrangements, I ended up on a 4:30 flight out of Orlando this afternoon, and should be getting back to Seattle sometime late this evening.

Given the big weather mess up there right now, I can’t be sure I won’t still run into more delays along the way, but given the logistics problem of getting home from the airport during the day, this probably actually works out better in the long run. In the meantime, Downtown Disney is probably a bit nicer place to hang out for a few hours than the airport would have been.

I will have plenty too write about when I get home, but for now I am still here for a little bit. Whether I actually get home anytime soon remains to be seen…

December 14, 2008

Zero to Sixty in Just Twelve Hours

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:30 pm

Technically, it’s actually 31 to 67 in twelve hours, but if you manage to throw a Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion in there somewhere, you can probably get away with calling it zero to sixty.  After a moderately harrowing day of travel, I made it to Disney World at about midnight local time, and I’m posting from my (shockingly huge) room at the Hilton right now. I have to figure that when the day starts off with a harrowing drive on roads with an inch of ice on them (fortunately it was only a shuttle ride from the airport hotel in SeaTac, and we had a driver who wasn’t a maniac) you have to figure that things can only get better. They eventually did, but not before the plane sat for an extra hour at the gate waiting to be deiced, which caused me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. Fortunately, that’s the point where things started getting better, as I got quickly booked on the next flight into an exit row (the one with the extra legroom, as long as you don’t mind having to save everyone’s life if the plane goes down in flames) and even though it took a couple extra hours to get out of Chicago (I wonder if a “donation” to Friends of Blagojevich would have helped?) I made it here, and was greeted by 66-degree weather at 11pm, a freakishly large hotel room (just don’t ask about the view) and four days of Disney to look forward to.  Assuming, of course, that I don’t completely zonk out in the middle of the Haunted Mansion or something like that after the combination of sleep deprivation and three hours of jet lag has me trying to make it to rope drop at what my body would consider to be 5AM.

There will, of course, be plenty more later, but I don’t know how much posting I’ll be doing here over the next few days (I’d like to not run the bill up on my phone’s data tethering too much…)  I’ll save the bog industrial-strength trip reports for when I get back home.

December 13, 2008

Fleeing From a Winter Wonderland – I’m On Vacation! (Well, Sort of.)

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:32 pm

Well, there’s still the pesky matter of actually reaching the sunny and (not so) exotic destinations to which I am apparently headed, but as of right now I am on vacation.  Currently, this means that I am spending the night in a hotel near the airport to save my parents the need to make a drive to the airport at 6am tomorrow on potentially icy roads.  Since the picturesque (hah) city of SeaTac isn’t exactly what I’d call a popular tourist destination ((it’s got the airport, does that count?) there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to do around here right now.  The place does have a pool (if I’m feeling ambitious enough to go swimming and/or ambitious enough to go through the parking lot in sub-freezing temperatures to get there due to renovations on that floor,) and it’s also got what might just be the last free Internet access I see for the rest of this trip (it’s a wired connection, how quaint), so I might as well use it.  Outside my fourth floor window, I’ve got a great view of the rental car lot next door, and a bit to the west of here I can watch a bunch of lights that look like they might belong to airplanes as they approach the runway.

Since I haven’t got a car here, there aren’t really any restaurants within walking distance, and I don’t think I  particularly care to try walking anywhere in this weather anyway, tonight’s dinner comes courtesy of one of the two non-chain pizza places that’ll deliver here without ordering $18 worth of food items I can’t pronounce the names of.   This lovely meal features Lasagna, Minestrone soup, garlic bread, some sort of sparkly lemonade stuff and cheap plastic utensils that seem incapable of even making a dent in any of the stuff..

Fortunately, I come vaguely prepared for such occasions.  It’s not pretty, and i should probably have  checked to make sure that packing tape residue isn’t too horrendously toxic before I actually used that knife thing, but in a pinch, it’ll do.

  

On the other hand, apparently my SwissCard isn’t so well equipped for opening bottles, especially not a bottlecap of the old-school non twist-0ff variety.  Which brings me to a little challenge:  Given this bottle of lemonade, and the contents of a relatively basic no-frills hotel room (so you haven’t got a minibar or anything like that) and not a bottle opener or anything even close to one in sight, What would you use to open this bottle?  I did eventually manage to get it open, and later on I’ll explain how, but let me tell you, the stuff definitely wasn’t worth $1.75 and a broken fingernail.  I assume that generations of drunkard frat boys have gotten this whole thing down to a science, but not having ever been a drunkard frat boy has left me with little practical knowledge on the subject. 

Anyway, assuming that the whole Winter Wonderland bit out there doesn’t interfere with things too much, I should be flying out tomorrow morning, and arriving down in Orlando sometime in the evening.  Right now I’m seeing some light snow out the window, although what exactly happens overnight remains to be seen.

December 12, 2008

Oh, the Weather Outside is Supposed to Get Frightful…

Filed under: Wanderings, Washington — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:18 pm

…At least that’s what they keep telling us.  According to forecasts for the upcoming weekend, the Puget Sound area is due for one of those much vaunted arctic blasts we seem to get one or two of per year that serve mostly to drive the local news stations into their typical storm-reporting frenzy.  It sounds like the Pacific Coast and northern Puget Sound area are going to be the ones to get hit the hardest by this, but for some reason, it seems that anytime something happens in the so-called Puget Sound Convergence Zone, Redmond manages to get most of the effects of it, even though Redmond is just a bit to the south of where the zone is generally considered to be located.  The short version of this is that we could be in for some snow, and there’s a good chance that there will be icy roads on Sunday Morning…  Which happens to be precisely when I’m supposed to be flying out to Orlando.

Assuming that I can manage to actually get off the ground on Sunday, I should be able to dodge most of the really nasty stuff (the forecast is expecting the sub-freezing temperatures to stick around for days,) and the weather down in Orlando is looking just a little bit better than it is around here, with mid-to-upper 70s, and even an 80 or two) in the forecast and what should be clear weather for most of the week.  Apparently it does get fairly cold in the evenings down there though, so it looks like I will need to keep the jackets and pants handy, just in case.  Even the low temperatures look fairly tolerable though, and for the most part it looks like the weather there should be a whole heck of a lot better than the weather for the next week or so is going to be up here in Redmond.

In the meantime, I am still trying to plan out what I am going to do when I get there, and even though over on the DISBoards there are literally thousands of trip reports, theme park tips and all sorts of other stuff (apparently that board is where a bunch of the really experienced Disney junkies like to hang out, I have still only managed to put together a relatively vague  outline of what I will be doing while I am there.  And believe me, some of these people are downright obsessed with this stuff, taking trips there 2 or 3 times a year and writing these monster trip reports that seem to cover everything down to the tiniest detail.  In an effort to blend in with the locals, I have actually been putting together a pre-trip report over there as part of planning, but even that is nothing compared to some of the big 73-page threads going on over there covering planning, traveling, spending time at the parks, the hotels, the resorts, and all sorts of things. 

One thing that I have learned over the years is that for pretty much every subject you can think of, you can find an entire board full of people dedicated to that subject, often to the point of near obsession (I stopped reading the Price is RightI used to visit on occasion somewhere around the time that pretty much every thread started descending into angst-riddled drama over changes made in season 37.  I mean, this was total full-blown “the world is coming to an end” type drama.  You’d think Syd Vinnedge came over and personally kicked all their dogs or something.  Anyway, if you can get past the drama and generic angst that generally accompanies such things (fortunately, DISboards seems to be mostly free of such things,) resources like that can be surprisingly good resources for planning.  That doesn’t mean that I’ve actually managed to get any significant planning done yet, but at least I know where to go complain when I manage to get myself stuck for three hours on It’s a Small World.

I am definitely looking forward to this trip though.  While there’s something to be said for being able to bring your kids to the Happiest Place on Earth (or at least the Happiest Place in Florida, or the Happiest Place A Few Miles West of Downtown Orlando, or whatever the place is) and watch them enjoy the sense of wonder that come with the youthful ability to suspend disbelief, I’m sure there are plenty of people out there would love the chance to go on their own, free to roam without worrying about the kids getting sick (one thing I’ve learned from reading all the trip reports over there is that it seems to be impossible to take two or more kids to the place for more than a day without someone puking) or not being able to go ride the Tower of Terror or some other appropriately thrilling ride because the kids don’t want to go.  On the other hand, as a single guy traveling solo, it also means that there are some things I probably wouldn’t be able to get away with (I’m going to guess I should probably pass on all the princess stuff.) I suspect that I probably won’t get the chance to take a solo trip here again (if I ever figure out who I’m supposed to marry, that is,) so I might as well enjoy it while I still have the chance, but not so much that I don’t care to go any other way.

I also need to make sure that I’m not trying to run full tilt for four straight days while I’m there.  As I’ve discussed before, I have the tendency to overdo the whole vacation thing sometimes, and don’t bother taking any time to relax.  In retrospect, I really wish I had scheduled longer than 4 days to spend there (or at least had gotten myself a later flight out than 7:05 am on Friday) but if I was staying much longer than this, I would find myself beginning to run into some of the big crowds that come from the Christmas break.  I suppose that I’ve got to figure these things out somewhere along the line, so I’ll be able to plan a lot better the next time around.

Meanwhile, I apologize once again for the light Blogging here this week, and I suspect that Blogging will be light again next week while I’m at Disney World, since I will have limited access to Internet (I’ll pretty much have my phone, and maybe Internet access at the hotel if I feel like spring for $9,.95 a day for Internet access.)  I suspect that I should have plenty to say about the trip once I get back though, and after Christmas and New Years Day are done with, hopefully I’ll have some time to work on some of those projects I’ve been putting off for a while.  In the meantime, anyone got some Pixie Dust I can borrow?

December 8, 2008

The Choke of a New Generation?

Filed under: Advertising, Design — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:59 am

In case it hasn’t reached you yet, it appears that in an effort to throw a brand identity with a long and rich history down the proverbial toilet and somehow try to gain back some lost market share in the process, Pepsi has unveiled a major brand overhaul of their core products, which should be making its way to your local supermarket soon, if it hasn’t made it there already.  The old familiar Pepsi logo that has existed in one form or another since 1950 seems to have been abandoned for some sort of vaguely recognizable facsimile that looks like the result of the old logo getting extremely drunk and engaging in illicit relations with the logo of some obscure Asian airline, and the lettering on the cans and bottles has been replaced with a font that seems more at home on a $6 bottle of vaguely exotic fruit flavored designer fitness water than it does on the packaging of the second largest cola brand in the world.  All this in an effort to compete with a brand that seems to be doing just fine with a logo that has hardly changed at all since Grover Cleveland was President of the United States (not to say that Coca-Cola hasn’t also had their share of blunders along the way…)

To be honest, for the past couple of years I’ve been pretty much sitting out the cola wars entirely, since I have stopped drinking caffeinated beverages of all types.  Back when I did still drink the stuff, I generally opted for Coke over Pepsi, and I suspect I’d probably be one of the ones to flunk out on the Pepsi challenge if such things were still happening though.  I suspect that there’s probably a lot less difference between the two products than we might suspect, and for most people it doesn’r really matter which they drink as long as they manage to get their daily dose of caffeine and sugar water.  Most of the people out there who happen to drink Pepsi mostly because it isn’t Coke will probably continue to do so, regardless of what sort of half-baked new age design they stick on the can (assuming they can still actually recognize it after the mangling that the logo has received.)  I can certainly understand the need to tinker with things every once in a while to keep the design fresh (for example, Pepsi’s simplistic 1980s and early 1990s can designs  worked quite well for their times, but both of these would look incredibly dated sitting on a modern store shelf.  The more recent can design that was just replaced by this new logo is obviously a bit flashier than the older red and white can designs, but by now it’s familiar enough that it tends to fade into the background.  The new can seems to be going back toward the more simplified look (which, to some extent, seems to mirror a similar move by Coca-Cola to revert back a a simpler design after spending a number of years cluttering up their cans with various background noise) and sticks with solid colors on a basic blue background. 

The problem with this is that if they’re trying to use this redesign to attract more attention to their product, making the packaging look more generic on a shelf already filled with hundreds of different varieties of Pepsi, Coke and store brand products as well as a number of small but growing upstart competitors is not the right approach to be taking here.  Pepsi seems to be betting on the radical redesign of the logo (and presumably whatever major ad campaign they’re throwing at it) to attract attention, and for better or for worse it seems to be doing so on the Internet.  The problem is that the vast majority of soda drinkers out there (you know, the ones who actually DRINK the product rather than debate endlessly about it on the Internet and never actually touch a can of the stuff) are probably not going to start drinking more Pepsi because it comes in new packaging.  For that matter, the people who complain about redesigns like this (I wonder where you might find those?) probably aren’t going to change their soda drinking habits one way or another as a result of this either, so in the end the whole thing becomes something of a zero-sum game.  I suspect that the  declines in Pepsi’s sales which prompted this change are probably more the result of changing habits and overall reductions in the amount of people drinking soda in the first place than they are about any sort of image problem that might have been helped (or exacerbated) by this redesign.  Nonetheless, it’s probably not such a good idea to be giving people reasons NOT to drink your product, and I have to wonder if they might be doing just that with this new design.

(For some more comments on this new design and a few old Pepsi commercials from YouTube, be sure to check out today’s Bleat as well.)

December 7, 2008

OK… Now What?

Filed under: Personal Stuff, Site Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:22 am

First of all, I apologize if posting has been a bit light lately.  About a week ago, my contract at work came to an end (not unexpectedly, since it happens after working for a year) and now I am on the 100-day break that comes up every year or so as part of contracting at Microsoft.  Fortunately, I’ve been doing this stuff for long enough now that I have had plenty of opportunity to plan for this, so I’m actually in pretty good shape to deal with it right now.  Most often what happens (and what, if things go well, will most likely happen here) is that I end up back on contract as soon as I am eligible to do so, either with the same team I was with previously or with a different team.  All things considered, the whole break in service bit can be a pain to deal with, but I’ve been through the whole routine several times, and have prepared well enough for it that I should be fine for a few months until I am eligible to go back.  I wouldn’t mind a chance to get into something a bit more permanent though, and I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to do so before too long.

Of course, this also means that I’ve got a bit of time on my hands for a while.  For the past week or so, I’ve been busy with trying to get my apartment back in order (the place has been slipping lately,) and starting to get ready for the Disney World trip coming up in about a week.  I expect that I will be creating a full trip report from that one, although it’ll probably have to wait until I get back, since my Internet access will probably be limited while I’m there (the connection will be available, but I’m guessing I’m probably not going to find myself paying $10.95 a day for Wi-fi access.)  Once I get past that and past the Christmas and New Year holidays, chances are that I’m going to have time available to get around to working on some of the projects that I’ve been putting off for lack of time and/or resources to conduct the necessary research.  One of the big hang-ups with some of the projects I’ve been working on is that most of the available resources are located in the offices of the local historical societies, and those offices are generally open only during times when I am at work.  Having some time off means that I should have a chance to go do some of the research I’ve been meaning to do, and assuming my attention span allows it, hopefully some of these should be making an appearance  soon.

Here are a few of the projects that I’ve been meaning to do here (read: stuff that I’ve been putting off for way too long,) in no particular order:

  • The malls:  Finish up Crossroads, find out more history on Totem Lake and Factoria, and start working on Bellevue Square.  I’ve also got a draft post sitting in my folder for Westlake Center and Pacific Place in Seattle that I should probably finish up some day.  I also need to get started on Redmond Town Center at some point, but the thick binders full of stuff at the Redmond Historical Society indicate that I’m going to have my work cur out for me on that one…
  • Redmond malls that never were:  Maingate, Evergreen East
  • The Ghosts of Boston Market:  I’ve been collecting photos of some of the former Boston Market restaurants in the area to show what they got turned into, and need to make a post on this sometime.
  • A local history mystery: Mario and Luigi’s Pizza (According to stores on the Internet, even though Mario already had his name before Nintendo moved to Redmond, Luigi’s name was derived from this local pizzeria.   I haven’t yet been able to determine if the place even existed, much less where it was located.)
  • The history of the Overlake Fred Meyer (it’s a lot more complicated than you might think…)

I’d also be interested in getting some other ideas for what the people reading this Blog (all six of you) might want to see here.  If you’ve got any ideas, feel free to throw ’em out here.

Another thing that I’ve been giving some thought to is splitting this Blog into two separate sites.  If I was to do this, my current  Blog (this one) would be used primarily for the random stuff that I come across and for more personal and family stuff.  I would then move most (maybe not all, I’ll see) of the local interest, history and mall related stuff onto a new Blog to be named later.  As you might know if you’ve ever been bored enough to actually go in and read some of the really old stuff here (Editor’s Note:  I am NOT recommending that you actually do this,) The name of Sledgehammer on this Blog is derived from a really ancient Web 1.0 site I wrote between roughly 1996-1998 or so.  Having a name like “The Sledgehammer” might make some sense for a cynical tech support drone having to fix broken computers over the phone all day (I don’t like to talk about it much,) but it has absolutely nothing to do with the vast majority of the content that I am writing here these days.  For that reason, I’m wondering if it’s time to move my history and local stuff to a more appropriate site.  If I take that approach, it would also mean that I could keep that particular site focused on the more research oriented projects that I’ve been working on (which, quite frankly, probably bore a few of you out there reading this,) and the more random things can remain here so those of you trying to find all the empty mall pictures won’t have to dig through fifteen pages of disturbing animatronic frogs and unfortunately named chocolate  bunnies to get to them. 

Another thing that I need to give some consideration to here is just how much effort I want to put into this in the long run, and if it might be possible to make some money doing this.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed working on this stuff as a hobby and I seriously doubt I’d be spending as much time on this as I do if I didn’t, but somewhere along the line I need to consider the possibility that there might be some money in it.  I seriously doubt that I’d ever be able to reach the point of being able to quit my day job (if I actually had one right now, that is) and Blog all day, but I’d be happy if I could figure out how to make a few bucks on the side from this.  At this point, I haven’t made any definite plans to move anything to a new site or to try to monetize this one, but it is something that I have been giving consideration to for a while now, and having some downtime from my day job means that now is as good a time as any to consider these things. 

One way or another, I doubt that I’ll be doing much of anything (aside from the usual semi-regular posting) before the new year or so.  In the meantime, I would be interested in getting some feedback on what people would be interested in reading here, and what I could improve on.  Apparently I’ve got a bit of time on my hands to work on it right now…

December 3, 2008

I Hear They’ve Got a Mouse There or Something: My Disney World Pre-Trip Report

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:07 pm

(Image source: themeparks.com)

About a week and a half from now, I will be on my way down to Orlando to spend a few days at Walt Disney World, and hopefully get a chance to enjoy a little bit of decent weather in the process (since lately it seems like there are two choices of weather available up here:  Partly cloudy and 53 degrees, or rainy and 47 degrees.)  I booked my plane ticket and hotel to get there a couple of weeks ago, and I just went over to the Disney Store up at Alderwood Mall today to get my park ticket.  Aside from arranging an airport shuttle to get to the hotel when I get there, I should be just about set now.  Since I’ve got to figure out something to do in order to pass the time until I actually leave (and try to make sure that I’m actually getting the trip planned out,) I decided that I would go ahead and put together a pre-trip report here. 

To people who know me,  the idea of me going and taking a vacation to Disney World might sound a bit… uncharacteristic.  After all, I haven’t ever really been a big fan of Disney stuff in general, and most of my recent vacations have been spent doing things like going to national parks (I was able to get to both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone last year) and taking nice long drives down seldom traveled backroads, hitting every tourist trap along the way.  I’m far more likely to spend my vacations taking photos of abandoned gas stations in the middle of nowhere than I am to be relaxing on some beach somewhere.  For some reason, I just can’t relax when I’m on vacation.  I also generally travel solo when I’m on vacation.  Aside from the obvious reason of being chronically single, I also suspect that my idea of an interesting vacation would probably bore most people who would actually travel with me to tears.  So taking all that into consideration, why would I fly across the country to go see a mouse?  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.  I suppose that I’ll probably figure it out once I get there though.  Mostly at this point it would be nice to actually take a vacation for once after ending up staying here and dogsitting every time someone else goes on a vacation.  I’m half tempted to get a couple of dogs of my own and drop them off at my parents’ house to take care of while I’m gone.

Another personality trait that I have which seems to come into effect mostly when I’m on vacation is that I seem to have some sort of mental timer that’s constantly reminding me that I’ve got only 63 hours of vacation time left, so I better make sure I’m using it.  This means that I tend to overdo things on occasion, and eventually end up hitting the proverbial wall at some point.  When I went to Disneyland back in early 2006, this meant that by the third day I was there, I got to the point where I didn’t really feel like doing a whole lot, and ended up sitting out a number of the rides everyone else went on.  I suspect the fact that it was raining for much of the day before didn’t help, since it made it difficult to find a place to sit down anywhere in the park.  On the other hand, the rain also made the lines a lot shorter on a lot of rides, so even if it does rain it’s not a big deal.  I also have a tendency to not be able to suspend disbelief in many cases, so this means that if I see something really interesting in one of the rides or shows, I’m more likely to find myself trying to figure out how they made the effects than I am to just admire it because it looks cool.  This tends to make places like Disneyland as much a museum to me as a theme park.  In some ways, this can be a blessing and a curse, and because of it people might think I look bored when I’m there.  In reality, I just have a slightly different definition of what’s entertaining than some people, but tend to think it’s not entirely necessary to scream your way down a roller coaster to find it fun.

As it stands right now, my plan is to take a morning flight to Orlando on Sunday the 14th, with an hour layover in Chicago along the way.  With about 7 hours on the planes, an hour in Chicago and 3 hours lost to tine zone changes, it’ll take pretty much all day to get there, and I should be getting in around 7:30pm that evening.  I’ll be spending four days there, then flying back on another early flight on Friday the 19th, with another hour layover in Dallas.  This time around, I’ll get the three hours back that I lost on the way down so I should get back in a bit earlier.  I will be staying at the Hilton at Downtown Disney, which from the info I’ve read is a nice place, and a bit quieter than some of the Disney-owned properties.  I had thought about flying back on Saturday, but the flights seem to be significantly more expensive since that starts to get into Holiday travel.

Beyond that, I pretty much don’t have anything definite planned at this point.  Since I’m going to be traveling solo, I suspect I’ll probably be eating mostly counter service, since I am a bit hesitant to make dining reservations for one.  I also have not been to Disney World before, and don’t really know what to expect yet for a lot of things.  I also haven’t been keeping up on my Disney lately, so I think I’m stuck somewhere back around Beauty and the Beast or so as far as being familiar with the movies (although I did see about half of Wall-E not too long ago.)  I suppose I should probably make some sort of attempt to catch up on the stuff before I go, just in case there’s some quiz to get in or something like that.  My mostly childless current existence doesn’t provide a whole lot of incentive to watch those types of movies, and  since I don’t really watch movies in the first place, I haven’t paid much attention to such things lately.  I suppose that if I can get most of the plot of a 2-hour movie out of a 5-minute theme park ride, it frees up time to do other things.  Of course, there’s the slight risk of getting It’s a Small Worldstuck in your head for the rest of eternity by doing that, but I don’t think that it’s actually driven anyone to insanity just yet.

Anyway, one way or another, I’m determined to enjoy this trip, so I should probably figure out a way to do so at some point before I go.  Since the hotel I’ll be staying at charges $10.95 per day for Wi-fi access and I’ll probably be tethering off my phone for an Internet connection while I’m there, I don’t expect that I’ll be doing too much Blogging from there until I get back.  I should also try to make sure I’m not seeing the place from behind the lens of my camera (another mistake I’ve made on vacations before,) but I do suspect that I’ll put together some sort of trip report, probably after I get back.  In the meantime, I should probably try to get at least some idea of what I’m going to be doing while I’m there…  Now what was the name of that mouse they’ve got there again?

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