Thursday, December 08, 2005

It was bound to happen

Article link: Car crash, heavy traffic turn out Christmas light show

For those of you who refuse to believe this was a true story, hopefully this will be enough proof. And for those who appreciated the artistry, this is a sad day.
DEERFIELD TWP. — Sheriff's deputies asked the owner who lit up his house with 25,000 Christmas lights synched to music to turn off the display after a traffic accident Tuesday night.

Deerfield Twp. resident Carson Williams agreed to shut down his holiday decorations indefinitely.

Williams told a Cincinnati television station that sheriff's deputies could not reach the traffic accident because of the traffic lined up in his neighborhood.

The display caught attention across the nation on network TV and on the Internet because the lights on the Williams house and filling their yard are synchronized by computer with music broadcast to car radios. There are three songs in the 12-minute display: Frosty the Snowman by the Jackson 5; God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood and Wizards of Winter by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

This amazing technological display of holiday excess has apparently become its own worst enemy. Enough folks wanted to come by and see the place that traffic came to a standstill. We hope they can find some solution to the problem so that more people can enjoy Mr. Williams' handiwork.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

More Christmas Light Mania

My last post seems to have generated a little interest, so I thought I might search around and find some other holiday display links to feed the demand.

First on the list? What happens when someone runs amok at Target with a charge card and a new holiday light sale? You'll find out on this site. This particular image looks like a display that Clark Griswold would have drooled over.

Wondering how that amazing synchronized display was done? The creator, Carson Williams of Mason, OH, detailed the whole thing here. He has since rebuilt the equipment (it's all home built, designed by he and his brother). The music is broadcast over FM by a small transmitter connected to a PC, so neighbors don't hear it.

Want to see more of his handiwork? Here's another (Windows Media Player)

Want to create your own version? Check out the folks at Animated Lighting. They sell kits that let you do the same kind of thing on a smaller scale. Not cheap, but hey, what is? Or buy the actual equipment he used from Light-O-Rama.

Got a favorite link of your own? Drop it into the comments by clicking below. I'll keep an eye out for more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas Lights Rock!

My wife is always telling me I take technical stuff too seriously, that I'm too into my gadgets. I showed her this video, and she says I'd get along great with this guy.

The video is apparently of a house owned by a guy who does lighting for rock concerts. He has synchronized his holiday lights with music. Personally, I'm green with envy.

Make sure your speakers are turned up for this one, and enjoy!

Video Link (Windows Media Player): Click here!

Tage: ,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sir Mix-A-Lot - Wherefore Art Thou?

It's scary. It's like a train wreck. An abomination.

It's a cover of the classic "Baby Got Back".

Imagine Hanson doing a version of the hip-hop hit, but in their bubble-gum-pop sickly sweet ballad style. Now you're getting close.

Listen to it. Remember it. It's a cautionary tale, one you should teach your children about, so it doesn't happen again.

Click here to listen, if you dare...

Related Links: Do You Love Me, Inspiration, Harry Potter Meets Michael Jackson

Harry Potter Meets Michael Jackson

Hogwarts Dancers - Google Video

This is funny, entertaining, and kinda weird all at the same time.

Seems a group of Harry Potter fans decided to put together a dance routine to a trio of 80's hits to honor the Hogwarts hero. Dancing to 'Holding Out For A Hero', 'Beat It', and 'Let's Hear It For The Boy', the group dances and prances with wands, brooms, and the ubiquitous black robes. All you favorites are represented - Malfoym, Hermione, Ron, and of course, Harry himself.

OK, Ready to Cry? And......Action!

Funny Video Crying BabyParents will particularly appreciate this video. The kid in the video has apparently developed an uncanny ability to cry on cue, but only when being watched. When the camera's off, he calms down, then seeks out the camera again to start back up. Priceless.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More Help For Katrina Victims

Benefit Concerts Planned for Katrina Victims | BCBeat: "Benefit Concerts Planned for Katrina Victims"

The entertainment industry is already gearing up to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, with everyone from NBC to MTV planning televised fundraisers this weekend. Check you local listings for these opportunities to be entertained and to help those who need it.

Help For Victims Of Katrina Coming In Many Forms

Jerry Lewis Shares Fundraising Efforts | BCBeat: "Jerry Lewis Shares Fundraising Efforts"

The veteran of years of telethons, Jerry Lewis has announced that $1 million of the money raised this year in the annual Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon will be sent to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

According to Lewis, ""If you want to send me 20 bucks for my kids, send 10. Send the other 10 to these people in this trouble."

That's how to help.

Friday, August 26, 2005

So THAT's What They Look Like...

Click on the link above to see the video.

You know those deep, rumbling voices you hear in movie trailers? Or the signature voice for every Disney promo? What if you stuck them all into one short film?

That's what you get with the film linked above. It's hysterical!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Real-Life School of Rock (from BCBeat)

Real-Life School of Rock | BCBeat

Remember the recent movie "School of Rock" with Jack Black? Well, VH1 thought it would be a cool idea to see if they could take it the next step. So they've enlisted the help of rocker Gene Simmons (the long-tongued dude from Kiss) to turn a classroom of kids into a rock band. Hilarity ensues.

Ken Jennings Gets His Own Column

Jennings Hits the Newsstands | BCBeat:

"Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings will write a column for Mental Floss magazine, a publication that claims to 'take the chore out of learning by presenting information in a way that's quick, simple, quirky and fun.'"

Looks like Ken Jennings has scored again. The column he will be writing for Mental Floss magazine will be like playing the Kevin Bacon game. Give Ken two disparate items, and he will try to link them in six steps or less.

There was a series of TV programs a couple of years back called "Connections" that did this same kind of thing on a bigger scale. This might be a fun gig for ol' Ken, and might prove amusing.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I Want My Air Back

This post is likely to piss off smokers. Unfortunately, there are a few in my family. Sorry folks, I've gotten fed up.

At what point do we finally get it through everyone's head that non-smokers shouldn't have to endure the smoke of others? Dana Reeve, Christopher Reeve's wife, and a lifetime non-smoker was diagnosed this week with lung cancer. LUNG CANCER. She has never smoked.

Sure, the argument will be made that there were other possible factors, that second-hand smoke can't be blamed for it, etc. It's all crap.

I know it's tough to quit smoking, and many smokers have gotten relatively considerate about their habit around non-smokers (this includes the majority of my family).

No, where I get hacked off is places like in my car. I don't smoke. So why whould I have to smell someone else's smoke in my car!?!? I'm not talking about a smoker in my car. I'm talking about the jerk in front of me who is hanging the butt out the window and blowing his smoke out. Why, you may ask? So that the smoke doesn't stink up their car. So that their clothes don't smell like smoke.

The tacit implication is that smoke smells like crap. They don't want it in their car or their clothes. So instead, they'll force me to breathe it.

Here's an idea - roll up the freakin' window and inhale deeply. It's your smoke - enjoy it. But leave it in your car. You say it'll reduce the resale value of your car? How about the future value of my lungs? I frankly don't care how much it depreciates your car.

I see the same thing at work. Everyone knows that casinos are generally a smoker's paradise. But our poker room, like many, is non-smoking. Of course, there are no special ventilation systems, no hard walls to keep out the smoke. But the area is pretty clearly delineated. So what do the smokers do? Stand by the delineating wall, smoke their cigarettes, and blow the smoke back into the room. When you ask them to stand back to smoke their cigarrettes, explaining that it is a non-smoking room, after all, they look at you like you just told them their baby is ugly.

I'm not advocating eliminating your ability to smoke. You want to kill yourself quicker while makng tobacco companies richer, be my guest. But that's not my choice. And you have no right to make it my choice. It wasn't Dana Reeve's choice either.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

When The Magic Disappears

Back in a former life, I worked at Disneyland. I was one of those guys who told dumb jokes on the Jungle Cruise and told you to pull your safety bars down on Big Thunder Mountain.

It'll sound corny, but I kinda bought into the whole "Disney magic" thing. I believed in the "onstage/backstage" concept. You were an entertainer. Your job was to deliver a great experience for every person that came through the gates. And there were experience you had working there that reinforced it. Some of my favorite memories are from times when I helped out in the parade area right before the fireworks. We'd get to stand (or sit) in the off-limits grass areas while the fireworks went off. The lights would dim and Tinkerbell would do her flight from the Matterhorn to her landing tower behind Big Thunder Mountain. And when she took off, it was like 20,000 people were socked in the gut at the same time. A sudden gasp and the "oohs" and "aahs", especially those of the kids, and you were seeing the magic happen.

This weekend, my wife and I decided to take our 2 1/2-year-old to Disneyland. I wanted her to start to experience that magic, and perhaps selfishly, wanted to experience myself through her. Unfortunately, the magic seems to have faded.

When Walt was asked why he wanted to create an amusement park, he made references to creating a place he could take his daughters, some place clean and family friendly.

This picture of the water in the moat at the base of Sleeping Beauty Castle is an example of what passes for "clean" nowadays. Scum from the bottom of the moat has floated up and is present throughout. The water doesn't flow, creating stagnant conditions. This scum is detritus that has accumulated, and through decomposition, created gases that cause it to float back up. We used to see this on the Jungle Cruise, but since the water moved, it was eventually sucked up into the pumps and filters.

It used to be the image of an employee with a "Disney Vacuum Cleaner" was prevalent, and the park prided itself on cleanliness. Spills were quickly cleaned up. Not so anymore. Walkways were strewn with trash, spilled popcorn, and the general evidence of crowds.

Remember the double-decker bus and horse drawn trolleys that ran up and down Main Street? Good. Because that's all we found were memories - no buses or trolleys to be seen.

We went to get lunch. We had a plate of fried chicken, a plate of pasta, a Cobb salad, and two side salads. Add in two sodas to wash it down. Cost? $56. We're not talking gourmet fare here. And this was in a cafeteria-style restaurant (Plaza Inn), where there isn't even anyone to help you find a seat.

Speaking of price, it was a damned good thing my brother had extra passes. To duplicate what he gave us (three "park-hopper" passes for adults) would have cost us nearly $240.

At the restaurant, my wife asked for a fat-free dressing. The first person spoke not one word of English. This was the person up front, dealing with guests as they walked in the door. After nearly five minutes of this, a second person came up. My wife again asked what fat-free dressings were available. This person spoke English, but had no clue. Her answer? Just get all of them out and lay them on the counter and let my wife choose.

This lack of attention to detail was all over. Shows were lackluster, with performers looking like they were just marking time. And finding someone to ask a simple question was nearly impossible. Employees spent more time talking to each other than guests.

I can't convey my disappointment strongly enough. I have literally thousands of memories, great memories of what the park should be like. I want my family to have those as well. But corporate expediency, budgetary cuts, and a blind focus on the bottom line have robbed me of these. Maybe it'll come back. I hope so. But for now, the magic seems to have disappeared.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Work Ethic - A Rant

A few months ago, I decided to try a new career. After being in supervisory/management positions for the last 15 years or so, I wanted to try something that did not require me to manage people. It's not that I don't like managing people. I just needed a change.

So I went to poker dealing school in Las Vegas. It's a five week course, at the end of which, you've got just enough skill and practice to get yourself hired at a casino/poker room.

Poker dealers can make a pretty healthy living once they're working full time. A decent dealer in a decent room can average $20 an hour without too much trouble. And with the explosion in popularity that poker has experienced in the last two years, there are usually more positions avaiable than there are dealers. As the owner of the poker school I attended told me, it's too easy to get a job as a poker dealer right now.

So what do I have to rant about?

Like every other job, this one is 99% attitude. Learning to toss cards around a table, handle players chips and money - all this is easy. Practice and experience improve your skills, or at least they should. And like every other job, there is the small percentage of co-workers who don't know how good they have it.

I get absolutely hacked off by individuals who have been doing the job less than six months, and are complaining when they only made $150 for an 8-hour shift. Yup, just shy of $19/hr., and they can do nothing but complain. There are folks that work at the same property we do making a quarter of that, with far less pleasant jobs, and happy that they can take home a paycheck.

My job involves dealing cards to folks who are in Las Vegas for a good time. Are there people who are a pain in the ass? Sure. Bad tippers? Count on it. And yet, you still average good money. That is, after all, what an average is all about. Sometimes it's lower, sometimes it's higher. It balances.

But these folks act like they are owed more, like somehow they've been cheated. They make what is really a phenomenal amount of money for slinging cards around a table. But the part they really don't realize is, their attitude is what is killing them.

More than once I've sat down to deal at a table, having previously been warned by the outgoing dealer that "they're a bunch of stiffs". I leave the table 30 minutes later with 2-3 times the tips the previous dealer made. I'd put this off to luck, if it wasn't consistent. Why does it happen? Because the dealer ahead of me has the personality of a wet dishrag.

One guy thinks he's going to be a professional poker player - this is just a temporary gig. And he treats players at his tables with that attitude. What does he care? They're just "fish" that he'll ending up taking money from later. They're targets, not customers. They're just an annoyance. And yet he doesn't understand why he keeps getting smaller tips.

Then there's the dealer who's only there for the benefits. There's more than one, but the general attitude is the same. They have to maintain 30 hours a week to keep their benefits. So when they hit their 6 hours for the day, they want out. Doesn't matter how busy the room is, what the needs of the businees or the customers are. Just get them out. And they act like it with customers. To them, they are simply killing time until they've hit their required hours. And when they do hit their hours, God forbid anything delay their departure. Customers get a blank stare, a cold thanks when they give the dealer a tip.

And then we have the inflexible, the rude, the just plain disgruntled. These folks for some reason seem to be constantly pissed at the world. For whatever reason, they have been unable to get some other job, and feel insulted that they are working at this job. And of you don't follow their view of how things should go, you're just an asshole who deserves nothing but the most rude treatment. In one case, one of these guys had dealt a few winning hands to a particular player. This player had neglected to tip him. On a subsequent hand, the player realized he hadn't been tipping, and tossed the dealer a couple of chips. The dealer's response? A sarcastic, "Think you can afford it?".

But the amazing thing with all these folks is, they're still there. They still show up for work, and will get flamingly indignant at any situation where a lower seniority person gets what they feel is better treatment than their position demands. Never mind that the guys with lower positions WANT to work. That they have to be satisfied with 3 shifts a week because any more would qualify them for benefits, while others try to see how few hous they can work and still collect theirs benefits.

The newer guys have to deal with showing up at a table where one of the more tenured malcontents have ticked off the entire table with their attitude. You spent the first few minutes just getting folks to relax. You have to remind them that they're in Las Vegas. They're there to have fun. Of course, if you're successful, you'll often get decent tips just because you aren't the previous guy. I got tipped $2 by three different people last weekend just for sitting down, they were so thankful for the dealer change.

And that hits on the part that annoys me the most. These dealers seem to forget that they chose to work there. Let's paint the picture: Las Vegas, free booze, folks looking to have fun, money getting tossed around like it's from a Monopoly set. And all you have to do is deal the cards, run the game, and help them have fun. How bad can this be?

So where am I going with all this?

I wish that this was an isolated issue. But in every business I've worked in, these folks are there. The attitudes of "do as little as possible", "they owe me for showing up", "I'm only here until I find something better" are all over the place.

I wish I knew what was behind this. I don't think there's an easy answer. What I do know is that I've gotten tired, as a consumer, of being treated as an interruption, a nuisance that is to be dispatched as quickly as possible so that the person who is "serving" me can get back to their incredibly important discussion about the capri pants they bought yesterday.

Fast food restaurants, department stores, theme parks, anywhere where customer service is supposed to be the focus - these are the places where you see these issues crop up most frequently. At some point these folks have developed the perception that they are getting paid to show up, that actual work is unnecssary. Dealing with a customer is beneath them.

And we, as consumers, have aided this by reinforcing this perception. We have become so focused on getting our goods as cheaply and quickly as possible that we have become willing to sacrifice actual service to save a buck. Brands that were once hallmarks of quality have given way to cheaply produced goods, with the expectation that their shortened lifespans are offset by cheap replacement. We get our food delivered to us at hyperspeed, and we tolerate the rude, or at best, indifferent attitude we get from the people taking our order.

We see people people who want jobs not being able to get them, those with jobs acting like it's owed to them, and fat cats lining their pockets with the profits of low cost goods, produced for a gluttonous market.

I thought maybe a rant would make me feel better. I was wrong.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Granny Gets The Bad Guy

(Click here for full story)

Seems this grandma was going to have none of her would-be mugger's crap. When he tried to swipe her pup, she whacked him with her book bag, knocking him of his bike, then booted him in the nads.

I can only hope that his buddies were watching it happen. The humilation of getting a whoopin' from a little 'ole lady can only be second to the pain coming from his nether regions...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

So I listened to most of the President's speech tonight. Kind of a waste of time.

I understand the concept of talking points, really I do. But could someone in the White House please figure out how not to repeat the same things over and over again. Find a thesaurus, for chrissakes...

The annoying thing is that I actually found some of the speech offensive. Usually, I can just blow off the inanity of his blathering, including his mangling of "nuclear" (there's only one "u" in nuclear, chief). But tonight, two things got me cranked off.

First, Iraq and 9/11 have nothing to do with each other. Lest we forget, the reason given for going into Iraq was the imminent use of WMD. Saddam had them, and we had to stop him. Except he didn't. No, the real villain of 9/11 was Osama Bin Laden. You know, the guy who's still out there chuckling every time our fearless leader opens his mouth. No matter how many times these guys try to link the two, there is just no connection. In fact, the only reason that terrorism is blossoming in Iraq is because we invaded Iraq. Go figure. And yet, 9/11 is still being linked to Iraq, nearly half a dozen times in this speech.

The other was the but about supporting our troops. I believe wholeheartedly in supporting our men and women in the military. They deserve it. No, the problem here is that at the same time that we are being encouraged to send mail and care packages, and help families here at home, VA budgets fall short by over $1 billion, Humvees are inadequately armored, and parents are having to send protective armor to their children because they aren't getting enough gear in the field. But we citizens have to do more...the hypocrisy boggles the mind.
Wow. Had almost forgotten about this little piece of cyberspace. So, I've thrown on a fresh coat of paint, done up the windows, and had the carpets shampooed. Maybe I'll be more active.

So now that I live and work in Las Vegas, I can say with pretty good certainty that it's a lot like Disneyland, except with booze and gambling. When I worked at Disneyland, I had to deal with kids. Here, I deal with adults acting like kids. Drunk kids. With money.

Still and all, it ain't bad.