The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

September 17, 2014

Live from the Lido Deck: Slightly Colder Than Usual Edition

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 11:38 pm


Date and Time: September 17th 2014, 10:40pm Alaska Daylight Time
Location: Aboard the Golden Princess somewhere south of Glacier Bay National Park en route to Ketchikan Alaska, Not really sure about specifics since the voyage info channel on the TV seems to be broken
Weather:  Foggy and somewhat cold, a bit of a running theme on this trip
Visibility:  Pretty much nonexistent

To be perfectly honest, even though I’ve done a fair bit of cruising over the years, a cruise to Alaska has never been particularly high on my list of priorities.  Part of this is because I have plenty of other places to go on vacation, and part of it is because I’ve always been under the impression that an Alaska cruise has the kind of weather I go on vacation to get away from.  After having spent the last several days in Alaska at the end of the Summer cruising season, I don’t think that assessment is entirely false, but at the same time the weather has actually been pretty reasonable considering the circumstances.

Granted, we’re not necessarily talking Summer weather here, but at the same time it hasn’t been unreasonably cold here either.  During an afternoon spent wandering around Skagway (an 1890s Gold Rush boomtown gone bust, then eventually turned into a tourist trap) I just left my jacket behind and was perfectly fine.  The weather in Juneau was fairly nice as well.  Today’s visit to Glacier Bay (you stay on the ship and the rangers from the National Park come aboard the ship and narrate as you go through the bay and stop at several of the major glaciers) was markedly colder, but just my usual Winter jacket was sufficient.  Given the scenery that we got to see, I think it was a reasonable tradeoff.

This is actually the last Alaska cruise of the season for the Golden Princess, which will be heading South to warmer climates once we return to Seattle on Saturday.  One of the interesting things about my current workplace is that the windows on the North side of the building face Seattle’s cruise terminals, and in one or two of the conference rooms I can see the big cruise ships in port.  On various days of the week during the Summer there are Princess, Carnival, Norwegian, Oceania and Celebrity ships that make Seattle their homeport during the Alaska season (quite a few ships homeport in Vancouver as well, mostly for one-way iineraries that are legally prohibited from departing from a US port.)  Being able to see the ships on a regular basis has made thr prospect of being able to hop aboard and take a cruise sound more attractive than it was previously, but ultimately it was my friends and frequent travel companions who put this one together.  Originally our plans called for an Alaska cruise at the beginning of the season in May, but various cirumstances resulted in cancellation of that booking in favor of one later in the season, which is where we are now.

On most of the cruises I’ve taken I have traveled with various members of my family, both immediate asnd extended.  These cruises have been enjoyable and memorable experiences, although as anyone who has spent enough time around the Vanderhoeven Machine knows, we can definitely take a little bit of getting used to.  This time around I’m basically traveling with someone else’s family though, which would probably be more of a culture shock than it already is if not for the fact that I’ve spent so much time with my friends.  Not that it doesn’t take some getting used to, but in many ways it’s a similar experience.  Fortunately we all have very similar (and in many cases rather unusual) senses of humor, and seem to have independently picked up a lot of the same quirks long before we ever met each other.  I’m sure some of the other people on the ship are wondering about us.

Anyway, we have two more days remaining before we return to Seattle on Saturday (a short morning visit to Ketchikan tomorrow and a short evening visit to Victoria on Friday) and since the Internet packets around here seems to be carried back to the mainland by sled dogs, I’ll have more to post when I get home.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s kind of cold out here right now.. 

September 9, 2014

Yeah, I’m Pretty Sure I’m Still a Nerd.

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:48 am

Gratuitous pinball table shot for no apparent reason.

Once again we’re coming up on the end of the Summer and the inevitable slow descent into Fall, Winter, and the time of the year where Seattleites tend to just steadfastly try to pretend the weather isn’t bothering them.  And with this past weekend came PAX, and the vast array of unusually uninteresting sights and sounds that come along with it.  To be perfectly honest, after last year’s PAX I actually found myself on the fence ab out whether or not I would go this year.  Part of this was the fact that tickets have become increasingly more difficult to get over the years, and part of it was the fact that there just didn’t seem to be all that much I was really interested in last year.  Ultimately I decided that I would get myself tickets if I could get a hold of them, but wasn’t going to go out of my way for them, and if I was not able to get tickets it wouldn’t be a big deal.

And when tickets did finally go on sale I was in a meeting at work.  By the time I was even aware that tickets had gone on sale they were already sold out in the space of less than an hour.  Even so, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on it.  Last year I was able to get through the long queue for tickets and buy Friday and Saturday passes, and then managed to end up with a Monday pass through a friend (which, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting.)  And there were a couple of years before that where I had managed to miss out on ticket sales, but managed to find tickets later on.  Either way, if I missed out this year I wouldn’t be all that worried about it.  But sometimes things have a strange way of happening, and it happened that a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend had some extra tickets he was no longer using, so I was able to pick up tickets for Saturday, Sunday and Monday (I sold the Sunday ticket to someone else since I don’t go on Sundays.)  Of course, I didn’t even know I was going to be able to go until pretty close to the last minute, so I found myself having to do a bit of scrambling to figure out what I wanted to do there.

The tricky part is that even though PAX has become so massive that even with an increasingly difficult to acquire 4-day pass you wouldn’t have enough time to actually see and do everything.  Show floor exhibits have massive lines, there are panels and presentations going constantly in seven different locations, there’s about half a zillion different tournaments for games you don’t play (and a couple of games you do play but are shockingly terrible at) and just about half a zillion different things going on all at once at any given time.  Basically, you just have to pick and choose how to use the limited time you have available.  This is all part of the experience, and is nothing new.  The problem with that is that even with all that’s going on at PAX, for some reason this year there just didn’t seem to be nearly as much to be interested in as usual.

Now part of this may just be me getting cranky in my old age (OK, I don’t think I’m quite that old just yet, but let’s just say that if someone made a game that realistically simulated chasing punk kids off your lawn I’d probably pick it up if it was 50% off on Steam)  but for some reason, I just couldn’t get all that excited about PAX this year.  I think part of this was that with all three of the current-generation consoles now on the market, a lot of the major publishers are still trying to figure out what to do with them beyond their initial launch titles.  There were a few things being shown that looked interesting, but I think that I could probably count the major upcoming AAA titles from the major publishers that I’m interested in on my fingers (and if you took Nintendo stuff out of the equation you could probably knock that down to one hand.)  As a result of this, I think there just weren’t a lot of games to be interested in yet, at least on the console side.  At the same time, even the indies (where most of the interesting stuff seems to be coming from these days) seemed a bit lacking, probably because most of the stuff I’d be interested in on that side is stuff that’s already showed up in Steam Early Access, and if I really wanted to try a lot of them out I could pretty much do it without having to wait in any lines.

Even with all of that taken into account I still think PAX is worth the trip, especially if you’ve never been before.  After all, it’s the type of experience you just aren’t going to find anywhere else, and even if you can’t find things you want to play, there’s always plenty of people watching that you can do.  Nonetheless, I don’t think I need to spend three days there next year.  Just one will probably be sufficient, assuming I can actually manage to get the tickets.

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