Tibs Manor

Monday, April 17, 2006

Knott's Berry Farm

Sunday Lauren and I decided to celebrate Easter the way God intended, by heading to Knott's Berry Farm. This was her second visit but my first. We had a lot of fun, marred by some ill feelings on my part. We hit 10 rides and attractions:

  • Silver Bullet - My favorite ride of the day. Very reminiscent of Scream!, only seemed a bit longer. I really like corkscrews.
  • Jaguar! - More of a family coaster, especially coming after Silver Bullet. Still this was a fun ride.
  • Montezooma's Revenge - this unfortunately named coaster marks my first backward inversion. I was stunned to learn that it is over 20 years old! The launching mechanism on this is a flywheel rather than hydraulics, but it felt about the same to me.
  • Knott's Wild West Stunt Show - Hammy acting and some loud noises. This was surprisingly funny.
  • Ghost Rider - My first mistake of the day. First the good - this had really nice drops, and was a really long ride despite feeling very fast. Now the bad...it was by far our longest line of the day. That's not such a big deal, but this thing shook my head around so much I was checking my ears for blood by the end. I am starting to learn my coaster preferences, and my main one is that I don't think I like wooden roller coasters. I've only ridden three that I can think of - this, Psyclone, and Colossus - and of the three, Colossus is the only one that didn't make me feel like I had just gone 30 seconds with Bas Rutten.
  • Xcelerator - After recovering with some lunch, we hit Xcelerator. My God this thing accelerates you. The ride is only about 20 seconds but it is a great 20 seconds: amazing acceleration and the top of that tower is a very cool feeling. This had a really short line also. I was shocked to learn that the other coasters in this style, such as Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster are twice as high and even faster.
  • Boomerang - Montezooma's Revenge launches you right out of the loading station. Boomerang instead cranks you backwards up a spike, and then rolls you forward through the loading station and through a cobrahead and an inversion, before stopping and repeating it all backwards. My third backwards coaster and my first backwards cobrahead.
  • Supreme Scream - This cranks you to the top, and then power shoots you down. These rides make me nervous but I always have fun on them.
  • Timber Mountain Log Ride - A log flume, pretty tame but still fun and a nice change of pace. The talking moose was great.
  • Hat Dance - This is one of those spinner rides where you can further spin your car, like the teacups at Disneyland. I am embarassed to say I spun myself sick. I started the day with a smallish headache, Ghost Rider really didn't help matters, and this put me over the top. I didn't get sick or anything but that was it for me and I felt pretty crummy the rest of the day.
Even with the occasional sick feelings, this was a very fun day. It was good training for the upcoming biannual CalTech Great Adventure night which is just two weeks away. My one regret (well, besides spinning myself stupid and getting on Ghost Rider) was that I tried to buy a boysenberry Icee but the stand we bought from was all out. How often do you get a chance to buy a boysenberry Icee?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I've had some downtime at work the last few days and decided it was high time I learned myself some Flash. So I grabbed a trial version of Flash Professional 8 and set to work, running through some tutorials.

I am really surprised at how fun it is! It feels very similar to working with a graphical editor or a movie editor, only with the ability to program and script behavior. Pulling off animations is incredibly easy - within about an hour I had a decent "Indiana Jones map effect" working (with some Google help). Laying out a user interface is intuitive and fast. Is this what it's like to develop with Visual Studio? It's certainly light years easier than the manual layout processes I've endured during my brief forays into Swing development.

There's plenty that Flash can't do without the help of another language like Java, but there's plenty it can do as well. I still need to go through more tutorials and figure out exactly what the limitations are, but my first real project may be either converting my old JavaScript video poker player, or possibly a computer adaptation of Das Ende des Triumvirats, which I started in Java a few months ago but never got around to finishing.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Santa Monica

On Sunday we met up with Ryan and his new girlfriend Karie at the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade. I had been to Santa Monica once before but only to the pier. The promenade was nice although it cannot compare to the GlenOak Promenade so of course I felt a little let down. We had lunch at a little Italian place which was a bit pricy but good.

There were some fun stores there...we hit an Urban Outfitters, a little toy shop called Puzzle Zoo, the Santa Monica branch of Kid Robot, and a couple of shoe stores. I picked up a new pair of sneakers.

We also got two Día de los Muertos switchplate covers from Wild About Music (I found a pic of one of them here but can't find one of the other). I cannot deny my fond memories of Grim Fandango it would seem. In a related note, the Residual branch of ScummVM is getting closer to actually playing the game.

We also hit the pier briefly for a unsuccessful search for Kettle Corn. We did see a guy jump off the pier and get arrested so it was not a wasted trip. Also saw the Nomadic Museum assembled in the parking lot next to the pier. We didn't go inside but it will be there for another month or so, maybe we will make it back in time.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tomb Raider: Legend

I downloaded the demo for Tomb Raider: Legend from Xbox Live last night and played through most (I think) of it. I have fond memories of the first two installments of the series. I remember playing the first time in Trent, with the Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" playing as I ran around the first level of the game. This was one of the first 3d accelerated games I played as well, putting that old 3dfx card that I bought for Quake to a little extra use. My absolute favorite part of the game was jumping off cliffs and swan diving into water - and occasionally into the ground.

Anyway the series has fallen on some hard times and this is Eidos Interactive's latest attempt to reinvigorate it. They handed it off to developer Crystal Dynamics, who worked on the Legacy of Kain series. I've played parts of that series and really liked it. The demo and full game are getting some really positive buzz.

The demo is fun, and definitely looks next generation. Water and lighting effects are excellent; in general things really look spectacular. Lara moves well and is easy to control for the most part. I am not thrilled with the camera but it's not bad. It is really reminiscent of the last few Prince of Persia games, but that's the problem...the platforming controls in that series are just so amazing and so effortless that it is hard to compare anything else favorably. I like the demo (even if I am stuck on the puzzle you see here), and the combat in particular feels much improved, but I'm not completely blown away.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Joshua Tree

Lauren and I went camping a few weekends ago in Joshua Tree National Park, at the Black Rock campground. Aside from some highly annoying neighbors we had a great time. It wasn't too cold, but it was extremely windy - it took almost 2 hours to get a fire started, and one time we left a chair alone and the wind blew it right into the fire! As for actual sights in the park, we saw a lot for only being there about a day:

We had come into the park in the northwest area but since the cactus garden was halfway through we decided to just drive through to the southern exit. The desert really changes as you move south, you don't see any Joshua Trees down there at all really, it is pretty amazing how different the two types of desert are in terms of plant life.

We just bought our first video camera, a Panasonic PV-GS300, and we put it through the paces on this trip. We shot around 20 minutes of video which I'm learning to edit, and took a lot of pictures, check them out on Flickr.