Sunday, July 10, 2005

Whoa, that moved fast...

Lots to catch up on.

There was the LAN party, back on June 24-25. I think it's fair to say that everyone who attended had a good time, and went away very tired. I went away very, very tired. We did in fact stay up all night (except for Leon...he slept twice), and alternately played Half-Life, played billiards, and watched our movie, "Poolhall Junkies."

Eric gave "Poolhall Junkies" a thorough panning, even though he hadn't seen the movie before, and then admitted that it was pretty ok afterward.

We never did get to Slurpees. There were times that a couple of people wanted to go, but the rest of the group didn't, and then an hour or so later a couple of other people would want to go, with the majority still reticent. No biggie.

Overall, it was a fun party between a pretty tightly-knit bunch of friends. And the food was really good. And I'm pretty sure that no one will die of heart break if we don't do an overnighter again. At least not like that. It was pretty rough at the end.

Independence Day and my birthday came and went, and oh my, did I have a good time.

First, we went to Logan for USU's annual firework show there. Leon and Jeff and I went early to get good seats, and of course, eat at Logan's old-timey A&W beforehand. I've eaten at other A&Ws, but they never seem to be as good as that one. We also wanted to visit Willow Park, but there simply wasn't time. So we drove up to USU stadium and staked out a place in line. Leon and Jeff passed the time by beating up their Gameboys, and I listened to an audio book.

The audio book was "A Walk In The Woods", by Bill Bryson, narrated by the author, and not, as I first thought, by John Malkovich. Yes, really. They sound exactly the same, weird cadence and all. Y'all know by now that I don't link to products that don't impress me. "Walk In The Woods" was a really great listen. I highly recommend it.

And John Malkovich, if you're idly Googling yourself and you stumble on this post, please do consider looking into voice work for audio books. An unusual voice helps keep the audio book interesting, and it certainly helped an already excellent work in this case.

Logan, sadly, has Homeland Security Paranoia Shit (hereafter referred to as HSPS) going on. You can't bring in a glass bottle in a cooler, but I wore a knife on my hip right through the gate, and it could very well have been a gun and no one would have noticed. Granted, the knife is my treasured Leatherman, and not really an ideal choice if you're looking to let massive amounts of blood, but the airlines are afraid enough of my Leatherman, so you tell me.

Folks, when can we start to be clueful about this again? Searching people does not make me feel more secure, it makes me feel less secure. And your plainclothes guys walking around, trying not to look conspicuous? Yeah, right. Can you tell me what's more secure than a stadium full of law-abiding citizens packing weapons (be they knives, guns, or broken bottles)? I bet you can't.

The Logan show is sponsored annually by Fireworks West, a Utah outfit that designs for and supplies professional fireworks shows. Fireworks West likes to show off their new stuff at the Logan show, and this year we saw shells burst into giant smiley faces. I know, not that impressive, but they've debuted more exciting things in the past.

The long and short of it is that the Logan show has been declining in the last few years, and I'm not sure that I'll keep the family tradition next year and attend. For one thing, tickets are now $6 per person, for a show that's been shorter every year for the last five shows.

The entertainment is getting more, well...unbearable. They've clearly been spending as little as possible to get someone on stage who at least knows what a guitar is, and invariably, this person also tries to hold and play a guitar, which is a big mistake. They also did away with the sky divers. I liked that part as a kid, and they just don't do it anymore.

Here. Take the Clearfield show as a study in contrasts.
  • It's free. Did I mention it's free? This is a big deal. My whole family went and the only expense was dinner. Free.
  • There are firemen and police everywhere, but they're there to help instead of stare at you and pretend they're not staring at you.
  • They allow vendors in for a reasonable price, giving the event a well-rounded selection of food and other crap to buy (I didn't, but I like choice).
  • Nobody searches anything. But if you do something stupid, the cops will be there in a heartbeat (see my post about cops for a fun story involving this show).
  • There are no damned "entertainers" to fight to ignore, so I can talk to my family, or ponder the sky, or listen to my audio book in peace.
  • Grass. Bare feet and grass and a warm day and my own, comfy folding chair. AHHHHHHHhh.
  • Room (and grass, mind you) for my kids to run around and have fun.
  • A huge fireworks show. Longer, bigger, and better in every way that matters than the Logan show. For free.
Logan, you've got a problem. Clearfield is putting on a better show for less (none at all) money. I'm pretty sure I noticed a substantial drop in attendance at Logan's show this year, and I've got serious doubts on whether I'll be attending anymore. I don't know if you care, but here are some things that I feel would make a difference.
  1. They put fireworks down on the grass in the stadium, and that's cool, but I'd rather sit down there, where it's cool and soft, than in a hard seat up above. Either open up this area to seating, or bring back the sky divers and let them land there again.
  2. Get real on vendor prices. How do I know anything about this? Do you remember the first five years you had light ropes? That was my family you contracted with, and you raised the commission on us every year until we couldn't afford to do it anymore. It was fun and we didn't mind paying for the privilege, but you've got to ease up on the greed quotient.
  3. Find a better way to entertain us before the fireworks, if you must. I remember when the organizers of a fireworks show would broadcast the program on an FM radio station. Perfect. Give us a choice whether or not to listen.
  4. Finally, trust your public and trust your public servants. Get the damned surveillance van out of there. Be clear about what you expect and have your cops take care of it if a few people mess up.
The single drawback at the Clearfield show was that they set up the barriers a touch too close to the fireworks, and the forward parts of the audience had firework debris raining down on them from time to time. But I've had that at the Logan show too, and I don't know that any show of any remarkable magnitude doesn't. Also, in Clearfield's case, this was probably a symptom of the space crunch their experiencing...they're building a new junior high school, tearing down the old one, and there's a dirt pile and a fence where the Clearfield City Pool used to be, which has been a major thoroughfare at previous shows. So Clearfield probably needed to make the best use of the space they had. Tricky.

On the nights between the Logan and Clearfield shows, Jeff, Krys, Andrew and I lit big floral shells in my back yard. We had four tubes running at a time, and with great effect. I found a way to stake down the tubes, so we didn't have to worry about them knocking each other over this year. Last year, we had a tube fall from the force of its launch. It knocked over the tube next to it, and that tube launched its shell about 3/4 of a second my house. Fortunately, the shell bounced off of the roof and broke over the road in front of the house. No harm done, but scary.

The PVR Build Log over at PhischX will have momentous news when I next post. Here's your preview if you read this first: The PVR works. It records, it rewinds, it pauses live TV, and it's all good. There's still work to do, and of course there are details to write about, but that's the gist of it.

And speaking of previews, Does anyone here read Cringely? Well you should. He was blogging long before anyone (even himself) knew what that was. These days he's the resident technology writer for PBS, and he's about to launch something that you will hear about, and probably be part of.

So go here and read about it.

No comments: