Nov 252008
 

There are three reasons to go to Las Vegas: gambling, girls, and golf. Now Royal Links Golf Course has brought two of the three together in a way no one else has with their Female Caddy Service called Par Mates.  Not only are these the hottest ladies you’re likely to find on any of the dozens of Las Vegas Golf Courses, but they also know a thing or two about balls … er … golf balls that is.  Not only will they fulfill all of your traditional caddy needs: replacing divots, cleaning clubs and balls, ordering drinks, and hel pwith the course itsel; but they’ll also make the lush Vegas scenery that much more enjoyable to look at.

What’s that?  Where’s the gambling?  Well, i don’t suppose any body would stop you from placing a small wager on the game, but when you’ve got girls and golf like this, everybody’s already a winner!

Aug 032008
 

I first heard about RideMax software in January while researching Disneyland information prior to Z’s birthday trip there with her mother. My early impressions were both positive and exciting – software to schedule your day at the Disneyland Resort (Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park) in such a way to maximize the number of rides while minimizing the wait time. All based on historical data gathered over the last six years. Absolutely brilliant! However, I also knew that it wasn’t going to be useful to X on their trip, so I simply filed it away for when Z and I visited the “Happiest Place On Earth” ourselves.

That time came about a month ago as we neared our July 20th visit to Disneyland and California Adventure as the last stop on my California CoasterQuest.  Although the $14.95 price for a 90-day subscription seemed pretty reasonable, we needed every free cent for our trip so I did more research before actually plunking down my cash. Whenever I’m researching a new (to me) product or service it’s always the negative reviews that I seek out the most.  People who are happy with a product typically gloss over any problems it may have.  For RideMax, however, I couldn’t find a single negative review, no matter where I looked.  So, I visited RideMax.com and ordered the software.

It installed easily enough, but I was immediately struck by what would become my biggest problem with the software.  You can schedule your day at Disneyland or your day at Disney’s California Adventure, but not both, simultaneously.  Given the proximity of the two parks and the ubiquitous nature of “park hopping” passes, this makes absolutely zero sense to me.  We weren’t just visiting one park, but both and had “absolute must” rides in both.  But apparently we had to decide in advance what times we would be in each park instead of taking true advantage of the data at hand and hopping back and forth as necessary.

But this wasn’t actually the first problem I had with the program.  No, that was brought to my attention by the following blurb on the official website-

Planning a Sunday Visit?

We’re still just a small, family-owned business, and have made the personal decision not to gather wait time statistics on Sunday, so you will not be able to select a Sunday visit when using the RideMax software. For planning a Sunday visit, you should be able to select the previous Saturday when creating your itinerary. Just be sure to change your plan’s starting and ending times to correspond to the actual park hours if they differ from Saturday.

We apologize for this inconvenience!

Unfortunately, we were visiting on a Sunday.  Frankly, the “small, family-owned business” excuse just doesn’t hold water for me.  if you’re going to charge for a product that you advertise with lines like “[t]his schedule is tailored to the expected crowd patterns on the day of your visit, for the attractions you want to ride”, then it should actually be able to create a schedule based on the day I wish to visit!  All of the reviews I could find that mentioned this (serious) flaw in the program mentioned that they wound up ahead of schedule when using Saturday data for their Sunday visit.  Personally, I don’t see much difference between waiting in line for a ride and waiting in the park for my itinerary to get back on schedule – either way we’re waiting.

Speaking of unnecessary waiting, that brings me to my third problem.  Take a look at the screenshot to the left.  It’s the output when selecting Toy Story Mania in California Adventure. At first glance it seems like Toy Story Midway Mania should be the first stop on our visit to DCA as the wait will only be 25 minutes at that point. However, the mentioned tip reads as follows-

1. In order to board Toy Story Mania with minimal waiting, we recommend arriving at the front turnstiles no later than 9:10AM. When the turnstiles open at 9:30AM you should then be directed to a separate waiting area for this attraction, which should open with the rest of the park at 10:00AM. If you arrive late enough to find the line already too long for your liking, and you’re willing to be separated from the rest of your group, we recommend asking the Cast Member at the attraction entrance if you may use the “single rider” line. This may help reduce your wait considerably. For more details please press the “Tips & Hints” button in RideMax, and review the page titled “Toy Story: The Mania!”

In other words, RideMax recommends that you be in line nearly an hour before the park opens for the day.  But, somehow this isn’t counted as waiting time!  If you follow RideMax’s advice you’ll actually end up waiting (at least) 75 minutes for your first trip on Toy Story Mania, rather than the 49 minutes it lists for later in the day.  For our itinerary the wait time was listed as 15 minutes in the first slot (65 minutes total) and 40 minutes throughout the rest of the day.  How, exactly, is this saving us time?

Our final major problem with the RideMax program is really the reason I’ll be taking advantage of their 30-day guarantee and asking for a full refund.  After running about 50 different scenarios for the day of our visit I started to notice a pattern – the “big rides” had the exact same wait time throughout the afternoon and evening.  What are the odds of this being realistic?  And even if it is, then I certainly didn’t need to pay someone to find this out.  The first piece of advice given to anyone visiting an amusement park is to hit the E-ticket rides early in the day as the lines just get longer after lunch.  I’ve used California Screamin’ in the example screenshot at right, but it held true for the vast majority of major rides at both parks.

Those four problems were the reason this software gets a failing grade from me.  All of them can be resolved rather easily by the programmers if there’s a genuine will to do so.  While their at it they might also want to make the program far less clunky, add shows to the list of attractions one can select, allow multiple break times (to mimic shows and parades that aren’t included), permit schedules to be made without FastPasses, and write up a little documentation to guide people through the best use of the program.  Unfortunately, despite all the rave reviews on the web and my personal excitement over the program, RideMax was a complete waste of money.  Even though I hadn’t been to Disneyland in more than a decade and never been to California Adventure I was able to schedule our time much more efficiently on the fly at the park then any of the itineraries generated by RideMax.

More Disneyland stuff-


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May 172008
 

The first actual tourist trap Z and I visited in Myrtle beach was the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum. Ripley’s actually has five different venues in Myrtle Beach: the museum; Haunted Adventure, a permanently installed three story haunted house;Ripley’s Moving Theater, a 4-D movie/ride experience with two different films; a Super Fun Zone arcade; and Ripley’s Aquarium, which is in a different part of Myrtle Beach that we didn’t explore.

The museum was pretty standard Ripley’s fare (yes, that’s Z kissing a six-legged calf). A little on the small side and definitely less impressive than the museum on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The two big highlights for us were the “floating ball” out front and the matchstick roller coaster.

The ball is a huge chunk of granite that ‘rests’ on an extremely thin sheet of water which means that it not only freely rotated continuously, but anyone can change its speed and direction pretyt easily as well. A very nifty toy. Z informed me that they had a similar floating ball at Disneyland, but no one was allowed to touch it. Well, pffft on Disney again .

The roller coaster, named “The Dragon” was made from more than 30,000 matchsticks and nearly 40 feet of track. Contained within its circuitous track is also a 16 seat ferris wheel. This is truly a thing of beauty and a testament to Jack Winkler’s dedication. Be sure to flip through the other pictures of it in our Ripley’s photo gallery to get a better idea of the craftsmanship involved.

We also bought tickets to Ripley’s Haunted Adventure which was amazingly themed on both the front facade and the waiting area inside. But Z chickened out before we went in. Last halloween as we went through the haunted mazes at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk we admitted to each other that neither of us are really fans of the things. Still, I had hoped to see just what Ripley’s could do with a haunted attraction. Maybe next time.

We tried to use our tickets at the Moving Theater next door (and we would have gotten away with it to if it weren’t for those meddling computers and their dinosaur!), but got busted by the ticket scanner inside 🙁 That was disappointing as Z has throughly enjoyed her other 4-D theater experiences. They were showing Motion Madness (apparently a hodge podge of different moving sequences – kind of a 4-D demo reel) and Monster Trucks: Get Behind The Wheel which coulda been kind of cool. It was even rated G for Great! Seriously.

The Super Fun Zone arcade was neither super nor very fun. It was the smallest arcade we saw in Myrtle Beach by far. But their crane game did have two-headed calves in it, which I seriously wanted as a souvenir. Even though I’m horrible at crane games I dropped a few bucks into it, failing each time, before the clerk on duty informed me that it was out of order and he’d already called it in for maintenance. Even a proffered $20 bribe couldn’t get him to open the machine up for us, so no two-headed calf for us 🙁

More from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!


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May 162008
 

Okay, Nightmare is too strong a word for it, but it makes for a much stronger title than “My Personal TSA Bad Experience” 😉

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here before, but Z collects snowglobes from the places that she’s visited. Thus far she has somewhere in the neighborhood of 40. Not too bad for a 12 year old, in my opinion. While in Myrtle Beach she picked up another half dozen or so at the various spots we visited and had packed them securely in her bag.

I know I’ve mentioned here before that as much as I used to love to fly and as much as I now hate to fly (thanks to the TSA) one thing has remained consistent: my abhorrence for checked baggage. At best checking a suitcase adds an hour onto each end of your trip. It’s just a hassle and I don’t see the point in taking that much stuff along unless you’re traveling from really warm weather to really cold weather or you’re going to be at your location more than 10 days. Otherwise everything I need can be packed into a single large carryon. As a result of this belief I am, of course, training Z to be the same way. And that training’s making an impact as she was astounded at how quickly and easily we were able to get to our gate at the beginning of our trip. Coming home is where the hassles occurred…

While Z’s bag made its way through the x-ray machine the operator thought they saw some type of “cream” in a tube. I’m not sure how they could ID such a thing considering there was nothing of the sort in her bag (I bought toiletries there and left them behind to avoid just such a problem). When the TSA Nazi… erm… officer(?) checked her bag she found the snow domes and insisted that they contained too much liquid so had to be either checked or discarded. ::sigh::

So, back through the security area we went to check her bag. Since we were now checking one bag we repacked a few things from her bag into my carry-on and from my carryon into her bag, then went ahead and checked it through. When we arrived in San Francisco Z’s bag was the first one off the carousel and it still took an hour after landing to get out of the airport. All because some twit with a badge (and the threat of a gun) wouldn’t allow a little girl to bring snow globes on an airplane!

But that’s not the end of our story. On the drive home I had Z start emptying her bag of my stuff as she was going straight to her Mom’s house. That was when she noticed the little “TSA Cleared” sticker on her luggage tag. Z flies 4-6 times a year to see my relatives and had never received one of these tags before. I informed her that the TSA (and the rest of the government for that matter) has completely disregarded our 4th amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. They feel that they can look anywhere and take anything they want at ay time and most of the sheeple in America go along with it because they foolish believe they’re being kept safe.

Well, as Z opened the front pocket of her bag to retrieve my items it turns out the pocket was now completely empty! The TSA had simply stolen everything in the pocket! We were repacking in such a hurry at the airport that the only thing we know for sure is missing is a pair of my denim shorts. Yeah, there’s a threat to the safety of an airp[lane: denim shorts! There was definitely more stuff in the pocke, but we just couldn’t think of it off the top of our heads. There is, of course, no recourse. We just have to suffer through it and go on with our lives.

I found this little video that truly represents whatthe TSA is about, but be forewarned, due to profanity this video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK

May 152008
 

I know, I know, I’ve been back four days and still haven’t posted very much about our vacation last week. The truth is I’ve been working at it, but processing dozens of videos and well over a thousand photos is taking much longer than I expected.

Everything’s been processed now and it’s just a matter of getting all of the photos uploaded to ShareAPic and all of the videos uploaded to Revver that’s holding me back at this point. Well, that and catching up on all thework (both online and off) that I missed while we were gone.

Meanwhile, here’s a video to tide you over. At Family Kingdom they had a mock surfboard/wave where you could have your picture taken and it would look like you were surfing. Unfortunately there was no one manning the booth, so we decided to just take a picture in front of the booth ourselves. Alas, I’m still quite the idiot with this camera and I had it set for video rather than still shots. Here’s the results…