The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 24, 2014

More Disneyland Facts That Are Not True

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

 

When you spend as much time at Disneyland, you start to learn a few facts about the place (you also have people that start wondering about you, but that’s another story for another post.)  Just about everywhere you look, there’s a story lurking around somewhere.  Perhaps it’s rooted somewhere in the past, telling a tale of rides and attractions long gone, but still remembered today.  Perhaps it’s somewhere in the future, whether an imagined future that probably never will be, or a very real future soon to come.  Perhaps it’s a story of fairies, magic and happily ever afters, or a tale of adventure in a time long forgotten.   And sometimes the stories just pop out of thin air for no apparent reason at all.

Those are the types of stores I deal with.  As you might know if you read my Facebook posts or have read my previous compilation of these from previous visits, when me and my friends go to Disneyland we tend to make up little stories along the way.  Sometimes it’s just little throwaway one-liners here and there to explain away some minor inconsistency.  Other times we’ll just decide something isn’t quite what it seems, and we’ll need something to explain it.  Other times, it’s just more amusing to make something up.  One way or another, we end up with these little stories and completely made-up facts, and somehow they just stick.

If that’s not clear enough, I’ll throw in this disclaimer:  ALL OF THIS IS COMPLETELY MADE UP.  That’s why they’re Facts that are Not True.  If they were true, Disneyland would probably be either a far more magical place or a much weirder place, and I’m not sure which.  Probably a bit of both.  Anyway, without further ado, some more Disneyland Facts that are Not True.

 


  • Most Disneyland visitors are aware of Disneyland’s practice of honoring Disney legends with windows on Main Street USA. What most people don’t know about is that cast members in Adventureland have established their own similar practice with the pile of skulls found in the canoe in front of the headhunters’ camp on the Jungle Cruise. Over the years, a number of notable cast members have been honored with skulls added to the pile in their honor. In recent years, advances in medical imaging technology have allowed Disney Imagineering to now create anatomically accurate representations of the skulls of the cast members being honored.
  • In 1967, following a number of notable incidents of bad driving on the Tomorrowland Autopia, Disney briefly experimented with adding several “police officers” hiding behind billboards on the ride to pull over misbehaving drivers and issue them “tickets” for their infractions. This move proved to be unpopular as almost immediately a number of children claimed to be traumatized by the experience, thinking they were about to go to jail. Finally, the experiment came to an end about a week later, after the Anaheim Police Department claimed jurisdiction over the Autopia.
  • In recent years, Disneyland has sought a number of different ways to put special overlays on existing rides, which has resulted in such favorites as Haunted Mansion Holiday. In addition to Rockin’ Space Mountain (which has been run primarily during Grad Nites) and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy during Halloweentime, Disney also briefly experimented with running Space Mountain with the cars placed backwards on the track. Although the ride functioned surprisingly well in this configuration, ultimately the concept was sunk by difficulties in loading passengers and the fact that people tend not to buy photos of the back of their head, No formal name was ever decided on for the concept, but in testing, Disney Imagineering generally referred to this as “Backspace Mountain”.
  • For over 20 years now, the Brotherhood of Mechanical Performers and Artists (BMPA) has been attempting to unionize the animatronics at Disneyland following successful efforts in a number of smaller parks throughout California. In spite of a campaign promising shorter working hours, more breaks during the day and upgraded mechanical components, a vote among the animatronics in 2011 went overwhelmingly against unionization, with 88% voting no. Since this time, the BMPA has filed grievances against Disneyland with the NLRB, claiming that they somehow manipulated their animatronics to vote against them.
  • Most people know about the popular RunDisney events that take place at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but in recent years, Disney has explored the possibility of expanding to swimming events as well. Last year, RunDisney extended invitations to a select few runners from the Tinkerbell Half Marathon to a special before-hours event where the Storybook Land canal in Fantasyland was opened for swimming. Although the participants were enthusiastic about the opportunity, it was ultimately determined that a large-scale event would be impractical. Although the Rivers of America seems like the most obvious place for an event like this, Coast Guard regulations designate it as a navigable waterway, which prohibits swimming.
  • (Note:  This one was posted on April 10th, the 50th anniversary of It’s a Small World.)  Today Disneyland is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of It’s a Small World at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City.  Although the ride as it is currently designed promotes global friendship and harmony, what most people don’t know is that design of the ride is based off of an early rejected concept for the Haunted Mansion where creepy looking animatronic dolls would have filled the roles now taken by the various ghosts within the Mansion. This design was quickly rejected for being too scary, but only minor modifications were required to transform the original concept into the It’s a Small World ride we know today.
  • The fleet of parking lot trams that services the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure at Disneyland cumulatively travels over 150,000 miles in a year, a half mile at a time. This is enough to make a trip at least halfway to the Moon, leaving a trail of lost hats, glasses or other loose possessions that may fall from the tram in its wake.
  • It is well known that parrots and many other types of birds commonly kept as pets have the ability to learn how to mimic human speech and other sounds if exposed to them often enough. What is less well known is that crows and other Corvids have a similar ability. In 2012 a pair of resourceful crows found a prime spot to build a nest just inside the entrance to Star Tours. They went undetected for quite some time, and by the time a cast member spotted them several months after they had established a nest, they were able to make sounds that almost exactly matched those of the R2-D2 animatronic in that portion of the queue.

  • In spite of the fact that the mailbox in front of the Haunted Mansion does not have an actual mailing address, this does not stop people from sending over 75,000 pieces of mail to the Haunted Mansion every year, mostly containing death certificates and other applications. Although Disney originally responded with a form letter about the high volume of applications for the coveted 1000th Happy Haunt position, eventually they just had to start marking all the letters as “Return to Sender: Deceased”.  In an attempt to try to stem the tide of mail, Team Disney Anaheim has reportedly given consideration to creating a website to accept online applications for this position.  Which will promptly be ignored, of course, but at least it might save some paper.

  • Recently, Disney Imagineering has been working on a secret project to develop a set of fairy wings that will allow performers to actually fly for short distances. Early prototypes have proven surprisingly effective, but many logistical challenges have hindered their integration into performances. The project was nearly derailed when one of the prototypes was accidentally sold to a young child in a gift shop. They eventually caught up with the child and brought her down safely, but she had made it nearly to Irvine before they did. The FAA is still investigating the incident.

April 9, 2014

A Grownups’ Guide to Chasing Kids Around the Yard

Filed under: Family, Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:01 am

I certainly can’t figure them out… Can you?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which I belong to,) there are two Sundays a year where, in lieu of our regular Sunday meetings, we have what is known as General Conference.  Over the course of the weekend, a number of different sessions of the conference are held in Salt Lake City where church leaders speak to the membership of the church.  These sessions are broadcast by a number of various means to members around the globe, and are translated and transcribed into over 90 different languages.  Although the option is available to view the conference by satellite broadcast at the various church meetinghouses, these days most members of the church opt to view or listen to the conference by Internet from the comfort of their own homes.   In my family, we tend to use the Conference Sundays as an opportunity to have our own little get-together, something that can be difficult to do at times due to the greater distances between us these days and differing meeting schedules we have on Sundays.  This past Sunday, we had one of these get-togethers at my parents’ house up near Granite Falls.

As members of the family have moved away from the area for various reasons (one of my brothers moved to Provo last year to go to school at BYU, and my younger sister and brother-in-law recently moved from Pullman to California for a job after he completed a PhD at WSU) our family gatherings have gotten smaller over the years, to the point that this time around it was just me, my parents and my sister’s family.  It turned out to be a surprisingly nice day for it though, with the rain mostly taking the day off and even some decent sunbreaks throughout the day.  Since my parents moved into their new house about a year ago they’ve been working on getting the yard (basically a big patch of dirt when they bought the house) into shape, and one of their projects was adding a patio, complete with a fire pit that has recently been completed.  Today provided a nice first opportunity to make use of it.  Sounds like the makings of a nice quiet Sunday afternoon in the backyard, right?  Not particularly.

My sister has four boys of various ages (the oldest one currently being 7 years old, and the youngest six months) and when it’s nice outside they’re all over the place, especially Conner and Corey, the two oldest out of the four.  If I was that age and had that big yard to play in, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t be doing the same, but to be perfectly honest, I have a bit of a hard time keeping up with them these days.  It’s not that I’m (too) out of shape or anything like that, mostly it’s an issue with my knee that slows me down a bit and makes it hard to do much running.  Naturally, this presented a bit of a problem when they decided they wanted to play tag, and I was it.  Just chasing them around the rather large yard straight-up wasn’t going to cut it, so clearly some strategy was needed.  After all, even on a good day they’d have a distinct advantage in mobility and agility, not to mention that there was two of them.  It was also clear that, anytime it seemed like I might be gaining some sort of an advantage, they were going to just change the rules, Calvinball style.  The trick is to take this approach and figure out how to turn it around on them.

At first, it was just Corey chasing me around, so it was easy enough to make a few (incredibly) halfhearted efforts at catching him.  After all, when you’re dealing with a five year old it doesn’t even really require bright shiny objects to distract them (although it certainly helps,) so the trick is to wait until something else grabs his eye and he isn’t paying attention, then tag him and run (or quickly walk) away.  Of course, eventually they start to catch on, so the effectiveness of this approach tends to diminish over time.  Pretty soon they start recruiting their brothers to join in and chase after you, and you have to start picking one at a time to chase.  Of course, even with their speed, agility and endurance you’re still going to catch to them eventually, which right about the point where they start throwing the whole “Base” thing into the mix.  Base, for those of you who may have forgotten the  vagaries of various childhood playground games, is basically a convenient excuse for someone not to be it when they’re tagged.  Normally the location of said base is a fixed position in some easily accessible central location that can be reached quickly in the event of a rapidly approaching it.

This generally holds true right up until the time when the base suddenly ends up being inaccessible with the It approaching quickly.  It is at this point that the definition of Base tends to shift around a bit.  First it’s in one spot (which, of course, they happened to reach about .003 seconds before you managed to tag them), then it’s another spot, and then when none of those work things start to devolve into more theoretical things.  At one point, I think they decided that anything made out of wood was base.  Although this idea would theoretically result in a dramatic increase of the base-enabled surfaces available, it was also rather short-lived after I managed to find a convenient rake handle and call it a portable base.  This resulted in a rather hasty reconsideration of the whole thing.  Eventually it was decided (after a lot more running around trying to call various items base) that anything solid was now the base.  If we were going by boring technical definitions that would have basically rendered the entire game physically impossible to play (unless everyone figured out some way to assume a gaseous state of some sort and then managed to find a way to chase each other around without dissipating into the atmosphere.)  Of course, even going by a second grader’s definition of a solid this didn’t accomplish much anyway, since I pointed out that the big patio in my parents’ backyard that we were all standing on happened to be quite solid.

By this time I think we were all spending more time constantly redefining the ground rules and trying to flaunt whatever rules actually managed to stick than playing the game, and pretty soon it turned into hide-and-seek, which doesn’t work all that well when the only real hiding spots in the yard were either on the porch or behind the shed.  And after that, I think everyone just went back to trying to set each other’s pants on fire with magnifying glasses (it’s a long story,) but fortunately/unfortunately there were too many clouds for any of this to be particularly effective.  Eventually things mostly managed to settle down, but something tells me that those boys could keep going for quite a bit longer given the opportunity to do so.  It can be tough to keep up with them sometimes.

When you’re dealing with young children on a sunny day with a large backyard, eventually everything ends up turning into Calvinball.

 

April 1, 2014

The Stupidest Idea I’ve Had All Week: How to Crowdfund Your Way to Fame and/or Fortune

Filed under: Bad Ideas, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:12 am
A Pile of Money

The expected result. – Image Credit: Flickr user Veken Gueyikan, Creative Commons

Note:  This was originally intended to be an April Fools Day post, but I realized that even by my admittedly low standards this was a pretty harebrained idea.  It is for this reason that I will present it as just another one of my run-of-the-mill bad ideas.  I seem to have no shortage of these lately…

I have been writing on this Blog for close to seven years now, and although during that time there have been ups and downs involved with this, over the past few months there has been one overriding concern that has arisen in my mind about this Blog and its future:  Somehow, I have failed to get rich off my Blog.  Now part of this is my own fault:  I haven’t made much effort to pursue the monetization of my Blog, but that’s really beside the point.  After all, some random article I read on the Internet ten years ago told me I could make a fortune in Blogging, and if it’s on the Internet it must be true.  Sure, I may have inadvertently forgotten to buy the $495 guide explaining how to do it, but how hard can it be to figure out?  Naturally, the most obvious way to make money by Blogging is to plaster ridiculous ads all over the pages.  Just a few banners here and there, and I could easily be making as much as .02 cents per visitor, which would add up to…  Hang on, let me do a bit of math here…  Around $10 a year, give or take.  I figure that would cover about a third of what I spend annually on image hosting (in the form of a Photobucket subscription,) which doesn’t exactly result in a whole lot of getting rich.  Clearly a different plan is needed here…

Then again, lately we’ve seen some interesting examples of ways to do just this.  If you’ve been reading the news over the past week or so, you will know that Oculus, a small startup company designing virtual reality hardware for (eventually) consumers that got its start primarily on crowdfunding through Kickstarter, was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, in spite of never shipping (or even announcing) any sort of consumer-focused product, just a bunch of development kits.  In the process, they’ve set a new standard for cashing in on riding questionable fads, which raises some interesting questions:  Just what would it take to crowdfund something out of thin air and/or whole cloth and parlay it into big bucks?  For that matter, just what does it take to sell an idea for big bucks without actually following through on any of it?

In theory, the idea behind crowdfunding is to take some idea that you have, find enough people to back that idea, then use their funding to implement it.  In practice, the whole process tends to be kind of hit-or-miss.  Frequently you hear stories of projects that met their funding goals, then never quite panned out beyond that.  It’s hard to say how much of this comes from people getting in over their heads and finding their projects to be more than they had bargained for, but there have been some accused of doing the whole “take the money and run” routine.  In this case, we’re not actually trying to scam anyone here, we’re just trying to find just enough work to get someone’s attention.  We’re not looking to change the world here, all we’re looking for is something that someone with ridiculously deep pockets thinks might change the world, and is either too willing or too shortsighted to think the whole thing through.  The best way to do this seems to be to latch onto the latest big fad.  Preferably something big companies are throwing a lot of money into in an effort to try to get consumers to adopt it by sheer brute force.

Of course, you also need something for the big companies to throw those big bucks at, which means you’re going to need a team of engineers to build it.   It can be a little bit tricky hiring engineers without some startup capital, which is where the Kickstarter is going to come in.  For whatever it is that you decide to make, be sure to keep the backer rewards vague, at least at the lower levels.  Assuming you execute this strategy correctly you will probably end up with a product of some sort somewhere along the line, but you’re not trying to make something for the masses.  Keep the backer rewards at the lower tiers as things like T-shirts and tote bags, and put the actual products on much higher tiers.  That way you can deliver the actual rewards to the majority of the backers without too much fuss, and you can buy some time to “develop” stuff.  In the meantime, keep talking about your prototypes.  If you can manage to produce something that won’t crash and burn too often, try releasing a few as development versions to the higher-tier backers.  They don’t have to be perfect, just good enough that people who can work their way around some bugs can deal with them.  Again, it helps if you’ve got plenty of people willing to chase the latest fads and see potential whether it’s there or not.  Hubris can be your friend, just as long as you don’t fall into it yourself (that’s a job for your marketing people.  You DO have marketing people, right?)

If you can manage to pull this whole routine off and get the right kind of attention, start insinuating about what you could do with the “right kind of partner” to take your product to the next level.  Feel free to go into full-on vaporware mode for this; after all, the engineers can figure all that stuff out later.  As soon as the right combination of excessive money and deficient sense arrives, jump on it.  In the end, you’ll make out like a bandit, and it’ll be someone else’s job to figure out how to put your wild ideas to work.  At this point, it’s usually a good idea to stick around for a few months before quietly bowing out to “pursue the next big thing”.  What you do at this point is entirely up to you, but if you implemented the previous steps correctly, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve got a large number of people who would love your head on a silver platter.  I’d recommend finding a nice quiet island with poorly enforced extradition policies, low taxes and which is somewhere that’s really expensive for disgruntled Kickstarter backers to travel to, and just lay low until everyone has forgotten who you are.

You would think this kind of idea would be just as terrible as it sounds, but if you ask the guys at Oculus, apparently it works…

 

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