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Oxnard, Anaheim, & Lake Buena Vista Railroad

Thursday, June 11, 2009

10:17PM - There's No Screen Like A Big Silver Screen

Tonight, I went to the movies to see a frog. No, not the frog that Disney's introducing us to in December - I'm not that well connected! I went to see a revival screening of "The Muppet Movie" at the cheapie movie theater down the road from my house. I wasn't all that cheap in this case - admission was 8 bucks. The theater was worn and a little bit messy. The print was ancient and had a lot of scratches, and the sound wasn't very good. I had a wonderful time.

I'm sure that a few of you reading this are probably saying to yourselves, "Why did you bother? You could have just as easily gone to Blockbuster or signed up for Netflix and rented it for a couple of bucks." True, I could have. But I would have missed out on what I think is cinema at its most magical - seeing a movie on the big screen with an audience.

We've come a long way technologically since I first started watching movies. Nowadays, you can bring a movie home on DVD or Blu-ray (or on VHS if you've still got the equipment) and watch it over and over to your heart's content. You can buy a big screen, high-definition TV to hang on the wall of your living room, and you can add a home theater system with multiple speakers, Dolby, and surround sound. If you've got the cash and the space, you can even create your own screening room in your home, right down to the rows of comfy seats and the popcorn machine. But it's still not the same as going to a movie theater.

It's not about the sound system, the size of the screen, or the plushness of the stadium seats (although none of these things hurt). It's about getting together with a large group of people and sharing an experience. It's about all of you laughing at the same joke, or crying together at the last goodbye. It's about all of you gasping collectively when the hero cheats certain death by inches, or sighing when the hero and the heroine kiss. Sometimes, it's even about the whole lot of you singing along to a song in the film that you've all heard a hundred times before (which happened tonight, by the way - it was so cool to hear about a dozen people, myself included, singing along to "Rainbow Connection").  There are so few times in our lives these days where we can get together with a crowd of people and, for a couple of hours at least, cease being individuals with our own individual issues and become one community.  Unless you invite a room full of people over every time you want to pop in a DVD, or until they create robots to sit with you in your home theater and react with you while you watch, you're never going to duplicate that experience at home.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have a large collection of DVDs and VHS tapes, and I enjoy pulling them out and watching them every once in a while. The cheapskate in me has a minor fit when I fork over ten bucks or more for popcorn and soda, no matter how big they are, and if someone could guarantee me that I'd never have to see another commercial other than the movie trailers when I go to my local cineplex, I'd be ecstatic.  But give me the choice between watching a movie I've seen a dozens of times - or for the first time - in my home or watching it in a darkened theater, it's no contest.

I'll see you at the movies!

Current mood: happy

Friday, May 1, 2009

9:38PM - What's In The Bag, Dad?

Sometimes, I use this blog to write about something really profound and/or touching. This is not going to be one of those times.  :)

For those of you that don't see me regularly (or at all), my almost constant companion in life is an Eddie Bauer messenger bag I bought a few years ago.  Basically, it's what I use to carry around whatever I need to carry around; I suppose I could get a briefcase, but I don't feel like being that much of an adult.

Anyway, the messenger bag had gotten a little dirty, so I took out all of the assorted junk in it and took it to the laundromat with the rest of the wash. I was amazed how much junk was in the fool thing, especially since it was in a state I would normally to consider to be "empty". Here's the inventory from tonight's unload, with snarky comments included as appropriate and in no particular order:

1. Two books, including one I've been trying to find time to read for the book review blog for at least two weeks.  (I pretty much don't go anywhere without at least one book.)

2.  One magazine (Budget Travel, in case you're curious).

3.  Cell phone.

4. Bluetooth headset for the cell phone.

5.  Bus schedule. (I commute to work most days on the bus.)

6. Eyeglass case. No glasses in the case, you understand. If I ever decide I'm going to put my glasses away and walk around blind, at least I've got someplace to carry them.

7. iPod and headset for same (and not the freakin' Apple earbuds - I hate those things).

8.  Mini first aid kit. I have no clue what's actually in this kit - small generic Band-Aids, apparently.

9. Mini sewing kit. (Well, at least I'm prepared for a wardrobe malfunction...)

10.  Plastic bag still prepped to go through TSA screening at the airport for a trip I made 4 months ago, containing:

     a. Two hand sanitizers (which I may actually start getting some use out of now with the swine flu thing).
     b. Travel toothbrush.
     c. Travel size toothpaste.
     d. Travel size dental floss container.

11.  Digital voice recorder, which I last used at a press conference over a year ago.

12. Reporter's notebook (which I guess is there just in case the voice recorder doesn't work).

13.  Two sticky notepads from the Disneyland Media Relations Department (from the 50th anniversary, no less).

14. Two AA batteries (which is odd, because nothing in my bag actually uses AA batteries).

15.  Mini eyeglass repair kit. Guess I won't have to run around blind if my glasses break after all.

16. Two free tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood, which I've had since February and expire June 1st. (Anybody want to go to Uni for free?)

17.  Business cards, both for my real-world job and the NFFC.

18.  Address book, which, believe it or not, is actually a little black book - no ex-girlfriends' numbers in it, sorry.  Never mind that I have phone numbers for everyone I know in the cell phone...

19.  Lens cleaning cloth.

20. Tide To Go pen.

21.  5 pens and 2 pencils (one mechanical, one golf).

22.  One eraser shaped like a book.

23.  No-name lip balm.  (Apparently, I've never seen a promotional item I didn't grab.)

24.  Bottle of ibuprofen (which I never take, because it upsets my stomach. Where'd  I put the stupid bottle of Aleve?)

25.  Tin of Altoids.

26.  Bag of cough drops. (When exactly did I last have a cough? Never mind, I think I'm getting a cold anyway.)

27. Various individual packets of cold medicines. (See above.)

28.  Calculator (which I also have on my cell phone).

29  Name badge from NFFC Chapter at the Park. (The last meeting I attended was over a month ago.)

30.  Parking pass from the Disneyland Hotel dated early March. 

No wonder my back's been tweaked lately. All I need is a cask of medicinal brandy and I could be a rescue Saint Bernard.  

So why am I even bringing this up? A cheap laugh and an easy topic for a blog post, to be sure, but also consider this a friendly bit of advice to those who might be tempted to criticize the excessive contents of your wife/girlfriend/significant other's purse or backpack.  You probably have more junk in your own carry-on items than you might think, and you know what they say about people in glass houses...

Current mood: curious

Monday, April 20, 2009

10:32PM - Survival Tips for the Festival of Books

As my three loyal readers have probably already figured out, I'm a book geek. I'm not sure I want to know how much of my life I've spent in libraries and bookstores reading books, purchasing books, or wishing I had a little extra money to purchase more books. (The fact that I never have time to read all the stuff I actually buy or check out never seems to dampen my love of books much, but I digress.)  That's why I look forward to the final weekend of April, which is when they hold the closest thing in L.A. to a book lover's Nirvana - the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA.

For those of you who've never been to the Festival, the Times and UCLA put on quite a show, with lots of bookstores large and small selling their wares, lots of authors - some very famous, others not so much - participating in book signings and panels, and lots of people taking it all in. I love going to the Festival so much that I've volunteered almost every year that it's been put on in addition to attending, and I've had the chance to meet and see some really fascinating authors.  

Sound like something you'd like to be a part of? As a public service for those of you who've never been to the Festival, I'd like to offer a few tips for enjoying it without completely losing your sanity. I don't claim to be an expert on the Festival by any means, but I've learned from experience how to make it through the Festival without tearing out too many of the few hairs I have left, so maybe my tips will be of some benefit to you folks that decide to visit the Festival for the first time.

Get the Festival guide. Not next weekend when you get there -- NOW.  It's a section in last Sunday's Times; if you subscribe, you've probably still got it somewhere in the house, or maybe you can snag a copy from your friendly local Starbucks or convenience store.

Found the guide yet? Good. Read the first couple of pages of the guide for a general overview, then take out the pullout section in the middle of the guide and put it someplace where you absolutely won't lose it between now and this weekend. The pullout section has a map of the section of UCLA where the event is held on one side and a listing of seminars on the other. Trust me, if you want to find your way around more easily and you'd like to know what's going on, you'll want to have a copy of  the map and seminar guide. If you can't find a copy of the Sunday Times, you can get a map and seminar guide at www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/index.html.

If there's a seminar you have to attend, get thee to a Ticketmaster location. Unfortunately, it's going to cost you a little money (the seminar tickets are free, but !#$%^&* Ticketmaster charges a 75 cent service fee). But only 15 percent of the tickets for the seminars are available at UCLA (and what's up with THAT?), so you're gambling with fate if you think you'll get a ticket to a seminar on Saturday or Sunday.   There will be stand-by lines for folks who don't have tickets for the seminar, but for the really popular authors, you may still not get in.  The Ticketmaster outlets where you can get tickets can be found here:  www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/ticketmaster_outlets.html.
They're only available through 5 p.m. Thursday, so check your seminar listing and hop to it, folks.

* Try parking as far away from campus as possible.  There's lots of parking available on the UCLA campus. Unfortunately, there are also tons of people driving onto campus looking for said parking, and it ain't cheap ($9). I usally park out at Lot 32, which admittedly is closer to Wilshire Boulevard than it is to UCLA, but I've never had much trouble finding a parking space. Getting to the Festival early doesn't hurt either.

You say you have no intention of walking all the way to campus? Not to worry - UCLA's shuttle busses will be out in force to shuttle folks from the remote lots to campus. Use of public transportation to the Festival is also encouraged.... oh, who are we kidding here? You're southern Californians - you'd sell your children for a tank of gas before you'd go anywhere on public transportation.  Still, it's an option, and the guide and website will tell you about it.

* Dress correctly.  That doesn't mean dress to impress - that means dress comfortably, usally for the heat, and bring a comfy pair of shoes. The Festival seminars are indoors, but most of the rest of it isn't, and even on a nice day, the sun out there can be brutal.  If you really want to see the Festival, you'll be doing a lot of walking, and the campus can get pretty hilly.

Allow some time to explore.  You're going to be tempted to rush from seminar to seminar, or from seminar to book signing to seminar. Don't.   The real fun of the Festival is checking out all the booths - particularly the booths of small and funky independent bookstores and the self-published authors and small publishers - and events that aren't headliners, like the poetry stage behind Powell Library.  If you just try to go from headliner seminar to headliner seminar, you'll probaly end the day exhausted, frustrated, and wondering what the fuss is all about.

* Follow the flags.  Well, pennants, actually. A series of colored pennants are hung around the Festival area to help guide people from one location to another. For some reason, some genius left the colored lines representing where the pennants will be off the map in the Festival guide, the the map on the website still has them. The pennants make getting around a lot easier, and they make for easier directions from the Festival voinunteers and staff.

Excuse me, where are the restrooms?  All over the Festival area in campus buildings; the buildings with facilities available to the public are shown on the maps. Buildings that aren't part of the Festival area also have them, but  it's hit or miss as to whether the buildings will be open, or whether the restrooms will be open even if the buildings are.

* There's no such thing as cheap food at the Festival. Or at least it's really hard to find. The restaurants at Ackerman Union seem to be a fairly good bet, as well as any faclities for the students that happen to be open (I always like the vending machines!), but even those are going to be priced higher when just the students are there. It's probably too late to take advantage of this tip for this year, but Festival volunteers receive box lunches before or after their shifts for participating. Is a free lunch worth a couple of hours of your time? That's up to you, but UCLA Catering usually does a pretty good job with the box lunches...

* Don't try to grab everything.   Many of the publishers will have catalogs available for free (no free books alas - this ain't BEA, folks).  You'll be tempted to grab all the catalogs and freebies you can, but you may want to seriously consider what you pick up. In most cases, you'll and up tossing the catalogs after a quick glance, but in the meantime all those freebies are going to weigh a ton.  Same thing goes for any books you purchase. Pace yourself, or at least consider taking stuff back to your car before continuing.

Shop around.  Don't assume the usual big box booksellers have the best prices on books, and it's a safe bet that the booksellers having signings probably won't. Many of the booksellers - including the UCLA Bookstore, located at Ackerman Union - will offer books by Festival authors. If the authors will be at one of the LA Times' designated signing areas after a seminar, consider looking around for a copy of a book with a decent price, or bring the book with you - the Times people are usually cool with that as long as you don't bring a whole stack of books for the author to sign.   If the author's signing at a bookseller's booth, that may be a bit more dicey - you may want to ask first before getting a book from somewhere else.  

* Quantities are limited!  At least they usally are at the booksellers' booths adjacent to the Times' signing areas; for some reason, half the time they don't have enough copies of books written by even the non-superstar authors.  Don't count on the mini-booths to have a copy of the book available just before you get in line - plan ahead. 

* Be nice to the volunteers. Okay, this is a little selfish on my part, since I'm a volunteer. But we're there for the love of books, just like you are, and chewing us out because you couldn't get into a seminar or because every line for an author signing is ginormous isn't gonna solve anything.  If things seem chaotic when you talk to a volunteer, chances are it's because they are, so please be patient and PLEASE follow their instructions.  

You won't leave the Festival quickly at the end of the day. It doesn't matter where you parked. It doesn't matter how long you wait or how early you leave. It ain't gonna happen. Resign yourself to this. It helps if you spend a little time in Westwood Village getting some dinner or shopping - I usually hit Fatburger near Lot 32 before going home - but the reality is that Wilshire and Sunset will be a mess for a while after Festival closing, as will the 405 going through west LA. Plan your schedule accordingly.   

My apologies if I've made the Festival sound like a nightmare - it really is a lot of fun, but it is crowded, so be prepared. My most important tip is enjoy being in a community of readers for a day - being amoung people who are as passionate about books as you are is the best part of being at the Festival. Enjoy!


Current mood: geeky

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

6:01AM - You Want Content? Ya Got Content...

A few odds and ends (mostly odds) based on my experiences of the past few days:

* Either the rest of the world's going deaf or I really need to work on my speaking skills. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to meet me in person, I tend to speak softly, and when I got nervous or anxious, I tend to start speaking faster. This is not a good combination, especially since an important part of my job is interviewing people all day. I usually catch myself after I hear someone say "What?", but more often than not I over compensate, so-I-end-up-sounding-more-like-a-robot. Maybe I should join Toastmasters...

* Donuts are evil. They're like little fat and sugar-filled sirens leading you toward the jagged rocks of extra weight. This goes double for any donut containing chocolate in any way, shape, or form. So why do people think they're doing their co-workers a favor by bringing them to the office?

* The Disneyland Resort's bars do not water down their drinks. Either that, or pixie dust enhances the alcoholic effects, I'm not sure which. My personal recommendation: Washington apple martinis at the bar next to Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel. Ask for Magic (no, that's not really his name, but that's what it says on his nametag).

* If you know you're sick, please stay home. We love you, we really do, but we really don't want to share your cold. If you insist on coming in and we get sick, don't take it personally when we give you what they call in Hawaii "da stink eye".

* Speaking of Hawaii, I love - and I'm a little saddened by - talking about Hawaii with friends (and total strangers, too). The reasons for both are the same - even after 14 years, I miss living there, and talking about Oahu takes me back to my good times there. P.S: If you're one of those people who've been to Oahu and complain about how urban and ugly it is, for Pete's sake get out of Waikiki - and I don't mean go to the same half-a-dozen tourist traps everyone else goes to. Trust me on this. You can thank me later.

* Putting my iPod on shuffle is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. I'd love the opportunity to demonstrate this to someone, but I'm also afraid of what they'd think of me if I did.

Okay, so much for channeling my inner Andy Rooney. Off to work!

Current mood: contemplative

Monday, February 23, 2009

10:55PM - Happy Birthday, Blondie!

Continuing an annual tradition (all right it's only the second year, but I intend to make it a tradition)...

"Whenever I see your smiling face
I have to smile myself
Because I love you (Yes, I do).
And when you give me that pretty little pout
It turns me inside out
There's something about you, baby (I don't know).

Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way.
Tell me how much longer
It will grow stronger every day.
Oh, how much longer

I thought I was in love
A couple of times before
With the girl next door.
But that was long before I met you.
Now I'm sure that I won't forget you.
And I thank my lucky stars
That you are who you are
And not just another lovely lady
Sent down to break my heart.

Isn't it amazing a man like me
Can feel this way.
Tell me how much longer
It can grow stronger every day.
How much longer

No one can tell me that I'm doing wrong today
Whenever I see you smile at me.
No one can tell me that I'm doing wrong today
Whenever I see your smiling face my way.
No one can tell me that I'm doing wrong today.
No one can tell me that I'm doing wrong today.

-James Taylor, "Your Smiling Face"

Current mood: loved

10:42PM - A Short Move, But A Big One

After more than thirteen and a half years, I walked out of my old home office for the last time today. Okay, I'm being overly melodramatic - I didn't quit or get fired or anything. At the beginning of the year, I got transferred from my training job (and out of my old office) to a technical expert job in an office about five miles away; I didn't really have to deal with the change much up to now, because I was in the middle of a training assignment that meant I'd have to spend half a day every day in my old home office until it was done. Well, today, it was done. None of us made all of that fuss about it, really - a few promises to keep in touch, an couple of handshakes and hugs, and then it was out the door, return date unknown.

Now, at this point everyone reading this is probably saying, "Who cares? You didn't exprience anything traumatic. You moved a couple of miles down the road - get over it."  But the people in my old office have been such an important part of my life for such a long time that I can't imagine what it'll be like to go to work and be without them.   It's like moving away from your family to live on your own - you know that they'll be there if and when you need them, but you know that somehow that the realtionships you had with them will never be the same again. 

So, to all the gang at my old office: Thanks for everything, guys. Thanks for keeping me sane when the insanity of the job threatended to take me over the edge. Thanks for reminding me that there are more important things in life than today's accomplishment or today's disappointment. Thanks for being there to listen to me bitch, moan and complain, and thanks for being there to help me laugh, smile, and cheer.  Thanks, in short, for being my friends - and I hope that no matter where I am and you are, that's what we'll always be. I love every one of you. Take care.

Current mood: melancholy

Monday, February 16, 2009

12:22PM - A Delicate Blossom Is Gone

Sorry for this interruption of what I hope's been a wonderful Valentine's Day/President's Day weekend, but I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge a talented lady whose name you might not be familiar with but whose voice you may well remember. Blossom Dearie (and yes, that was her real name), an accomplished jazz singer with a beautiful soft voice that gave her singing an innocent and childlike quality, passed away on February 7th at the age of 82.

If you're a jazz fan, you're probably familiar with her recordings from the 50's and 60's. If you're around my age and you spent way too may Saturday mornings in front of the TV, Blossom was the singer of a couple of the better known songs in the "Schoolhouse Rock"  series, including "Unpack Your Adjectives" and  "Figure Eight". (Not only were you learning from those little cartoons, you were being exposed to different musical genres! Who knew?)

I'm sorry to say I didn't hear about Blossom's passing until I read a short blurb about her in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, but I'm going to miss her. Can I ask a favor? If you were a fan of "Schoolhouse Rock" or jazz , use an extra adjective or two as you do whatever you'll be doing today, as a tribute to Blossom (no four-letter ones, please). Thanks! 

(For you young whipper-snappers out there who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, you can find a link to "Unpack Your Adjectives"  here:  www.youtube.com/watch. Enjoy!)

Current mood: sad

Sunday, February 8, 2009

6:09PM - Wow!

I just flew back from Tokyo about a week and a half ago...

(No... must fight the urge... can't...say..it... )

... and boy are my arms tired! (rimshot)

Sorry, let's try that again. I've been back about a week and a half after visiting Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. After having seen it for myself, there's only one thing I can say to all you Disney fans out there who are wondering if they should visit there...

Go. Now. All right, not NOW now - save your pennies, ask for some time off from work, and look for some cheap airfares and hotel rates first. But go.

Your friends who have been to the Tokyo parks and the folks on the Disney websites who talk about them aren't exaggerating. They really are that amazing. I had a look of awe on my face so much of the time during my trip that my companion/tour guide nicknamed me O.J. (as in open-jawed, not as in Simpson).  

The parks are beautiful and impeccably maintained. The parks' attractions sport a level of detail and theming that ranks with the best work you've seen from WDI at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Even though I couldn't communicate directly with most of them, the cast members seemed to be really dedicated to their jobs and are really focused on providing the guests the best possible experience.  I could have easily spent several times more than I did on souvenirs, even though the exchange rate made buying almost anything a frightening proposition.  

My traveling companion asked me to find adjectives to describe the Disney theme park experience in Japan. After tossing around several adjectives that didn't quite fit, I settled on a phrase instead: "They get it."  Whoever taught the Japanese "the Disney way" (I think that'd be Jim Cora, but I'm sure there were others as well), but I give him/them credit for teaching it to them so well. A lot of Disney theme park executive could learn a lot from these folks. Bob, is there any room in the budget for a "learn from these people or else" trip to Japan for everyone in the Anaheim and Orlando Team Disney buildings?

I'm so glad I got the chance to make this trip. It really was a dream come true. More thanks than I could ever hope to express go to my friend Eric for giving me the chance to come on this trip and for being my personal tour guide for the trip. Many more thanks to my beloved Blondie for letting me go even though she couldn't. Honey, if you're willing and when we've got the money, we're going so you can see it for yourself -- that's all there is to it. Thanks to my friends Carol and Andy at work for realizing how much this meant to me and for covering for me when I took off at almost the last minute to do this.  Thanks to my bosses for letting me go, too -  I guess you guys really have been impressed by my work! 

One last thing. Our Winnie the Pooh attractions? Truly sad compared compared to theirs, and I like (liked?) Walt Disney World's version. If Spider-Man at IOA's considered the best theme park attraction in the world, Tokyo's Pooh is a very close second, at the very least. Yes, it's that good. But you'll have to see it for yourself.

Okay, back to work...


Current mood: giddy

Saturday, January 10, 2009

11:06PM - I'm Not Responsible For Earworms Planted Due To This Quiz

Nicked from Ricky Brigante on Facebook:

Music Guessing Game

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.

Step 2: Post the first line from the first 10 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.

Step 3: Strike through the songs when someone guesses both artist and track correctly.

Step 4: For those who are guessing, looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!

Step 5: If you like the game post your own.


1. "Welcome to our tropical hideaway/You lucky people, you"

2. "Come take my hand /You should know me"

3. "Holly came from Miami, FLA/Hitch-hiked her way across the USA"

4. "Joan and Mitchy/Were getting kind of itchy/Just to leave the folk music behind"

5.  "Uptown girl/She's been livin' in her uptown world" (Okay, so you've got one really easy one!)

6.  "Jadda/jadda/jadda jadda jing jing jing"

7.  "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together"

8.  "Before this dance is through/I think I'll love you, too/I'm so happy when you dance with me"

9.  "Blame it all on my roots/I showed up in boots/And ruined your black-tie affair"

10.  "Early each day to the steps of St. Paul's/The little old bird woman comes"

(Yeah, I've seen this game with 25 songs, but what the hey - let's see how ya do with ten. ;)

Current mood: curious

Friday, January 2, 2009

11:00PM - It's A Day Late, But...

New Year's Resolutions, 2009 Edition:

* Write more because I want to, not because I'm worried about not having enough material for the newsletter.

* Post more often to this blog and a little more frequently to the book review blog (disneyparkbooks.blogspot.com - yeah, I know, shameless plug).

* Pay off the credit card bills and keep them paid off for more than a month.

* Save enough money to finally buy into DVC (well, that one may be extended for multiple years).

* Get myself and Blondie into a home of our own (ditto).

* Lose enough weight that I can comfortably wear all that stuff I bought two years ago. (The stuff still fits now... sort of.)

*Tell Blondie how much I love her as much as possible (including right now - hi, honey!)

What about y'all - anything you're particularly interesting in accomplishing this year?

Current mood: pensive

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5:04PM - A Night In the Suite? That's So 2007...

Now this is what I call a Disney parks celebration!

Of course it's a fake. If this happened to me for real, I'd probably get DCA dedicated to me... ;)

Current mood: mischievous

Monday, December 8, 2008

8:53PM - Are You Ready For A Surprise?

I'm going to Tokyo.

Wait a minute. Let's try that again...


Okay, I've had my moment. I'll go back to normal now.

This was absolutely not planned, folks - it just kinda dropped into my lap. Things just happened to work out really well - almost as if it were fate, even. So let's go back to where it all began.

It's the end of the NFFC Convention last July. There's one last opportunity drawing at the end of the Convention - a tour of the Archives and lunch at the Rotunda with Dave Smith. I bought about 5 bucks worth of tickets, and, figuring I had no chance to win as usual, I marked the back of the ticket with my name and the line "Yes, that Paul." Wouldn't you know it - the one time I decide to be a smart-ass when I enter a drawing and my ticket gets pulled. Needless to say, my beloved Blondie and I are thrilled.

Fast forward a few months. We have to settle on a date and invite a couple of guests. Blondie and I choose a really nice couple we know from two of the local NFFC chapters. They're flattered at our invitation and they agree to join us, even though they're going to be flying out to Tokyo on a trip the following day.

Fast forward again to last week. I get a phone call from the friend I invited. My first thought is that he and his wife will have to cancel on the trip to the Archives. Not quite.
It seems my friend's wife can't get time off from work. I'll be responsible for my airfare, a small portion of the hotel room we'll share, and my expenses in Japan. Would I like to go with him to Tokyo?

Would I like to go? Dude, I've been wanting to go to Tokyo Disneyland since... well, for quite a while. Every time I've tried, the finances and/or the timing have never worked out. Well, my friend's offer makes the money part more or less reasonable, but I just know I'll never get the time off from work. I'm in the middle of training a couple of new employees, I'll never find someone to cover for me, and I'll be on the verge of changing jobs, so nobody will ever approve it. Figuring I've got nothing to lose, I start talking to people at the office.

According to the training schedule, the trainees will be off most of the week I'll be gone. The supervisor, who's a friend of mine, and the interim office manager, who I know pretty well from his last job, both agree to cover for me for the couple of days the trainees will be in class. Everybody up the food chain has been so pleased with my job performance and my willingness to take on the new job that they're willing to cut me loose for a week.

Okay, one possible obstacle left. My beloved Blondie will be in town. She's already had to put up with my being gone for almost two weeks in November while I went on a 40th birthday cruise and WDW trip with Mom. She's not going to be really happy about this, I'm sure. This trip's not worth Blondie hating me for a long while, so if she says no, I'm not going.

I talk to Blondie and she reminds me once again why she's such a wonderful woman and I'm so lucky to have her. She'd love to go with me, but she doesn't have the money; she knows how much it means to me, though, and she's willing to let me go - provided I scope out everything for her to see if she'll like it, so maybe we can go together for TDL's 30th in 2013.

Guess what? We're out of obstacles! It looks like this is actually going to happen.

There's still a lot that need to get done, but things are slowly coming along; barring any unforeseen disasters, in about seven weeks, I'll be on my way to Japan.

Funny how things work out some times, isn't it?

Current mood: ecstatic

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

6:34PM - The Hardest Part About Returning From Vacation...

... is finding the motivation to do anything. Well, okay, maybe not the work stuff - funny thing, they insist on paying me only if I'm being productive. I'm talking about the stuff you should be doing just 'cause it should be done. Like exercising. Like putting together the damned newsletter. Like getting a new vacuum cleaner so I can actually vacuum. Y'know, the routine stuff.

Vacation itself was nothing less than awesome. I was ready to book my next Disney cruise the second day out (if it weren't for pesky little things like lack of money). I had a wonderful time being out at sea and doing as much or as little as I pleased (though there were so many fun things to participate in I that I did quite a bit). I'm now the proud owner of a really cheap coffee mug for winning a Disney music trivia contest. I actually dared to sing at karaoke night and with a professional singer, and both times I was told how wonderful my signing was. (Singing lessons in my future, perhaps?) I dressed up in a tux for the first time in years, and I enjoyed it so much that I think I'd like to actually own one. (Haven't got the slightest idea where I'd wear it, but never mind that...) I actually enjoyed being cut off from the civilized world (except for the night Obama won - then I was glued to CNN just like everybody else).

Mom had a great time, too - on the cruise, anyway, I think she just tolerated WDW - and I was glad to have the time to spend with her... well, just being there. No profound moments of clarity regarding our familial relationships, no Very Special Moments - we just hung out together a lot and had a lot of fun. We spent almost two weeks together and didn't nearly kill each other - who'd-a thunk it? :)

November's just gone by in a blur. Can it really almost be Christmastime? Couldn't we just postpone the holidays until I'm caught up with everything I have to do and I can really enjoy them?

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

Current mood: silly

Thursday, October 23, 2008

6:16PM - Please Don't Put My Picture On A Milk Carton...

... I'm still here. Really!

You know you've been too busy when your good friends call to ask what happened to you. (Thank you for checking, Fab -- it was really sweet of you.) I've just been overwhelmed with all the things I'm doing and the things I'm supposed to be doing - 40-plus hours a week at the real job, editing and writing for the NFFC newsletter (which is a lot of fun, but is practically an unpaid second job), preparing to go on a cruise to celebrate my 40th birthday, trying my best to forget that I'll soon be having my 40th birthday, going to meetings, going on business trips, and on and on and on and on.

In spite of all the busyness (maybe becuase of it?), everything's OK. I miss Blondie with all my heart and wish she'd get down here already, but other than that I haven't really got any complaints. (Maybe that's the problem - half the time when I post here it's because I'm riled up about something!)

Anyway, I apologize for dropping off the face of the earth. It's not anger, it's not depression, it's not a desire to live in a shack in Montana with no power - it's just life.

Break's over -- back to the salt mines. Kungaloosh!

Current mood: tired

Monday, September 1, 2008

5:09PM - Exhaustion For Fun And A Plaque

It's Labor Day, and I'm celebrating by doing unpaid labor. Kinda fitting, actually, since I've been working my fat little butt off all week.

I'm sooooooo tired. Yeah, I know, I always say that, but I'm even more tired than usual. Why? Here's the recap of my week:

Monday: Half a day of interviews at work, followed by a drive to Santa Maria. Test out my laptop to make sure it in fact works in a hotel room, get my discounted meal and my free drink and collapse into bed.

Tuesday: Spend all day in Santa Maria doing training, training, and more training. Juggle my schedule to spend as much time as possible at the office but not rack up a bunch of overtime (taxpayers, rejoice!), then drive home. The juggling didn't work - who knew Santa Barbara has rush hour traffic?

Wednesday: Two-hour conference call to do more training. Pick up food for a baby shower luncheon at the office. (Oops, forgot the gift! Fortunately, a co-worker with more time and a lot more taste in baby gifts has me covered). Try to fix some computer problems and some phone problems, then head home to get my clothes together and turn in early.

Thursday: Get picked up by an airport shuttle at 3 a.m. and attempt to get some sleep on the way to LA. Fly out of LAX at 6:00 a.m. to SFO, hop another shuttle to our regional office to lollygag around for about 2+ hours and go schmooze with awardees and The Powers That Be until it's time for an awards ceremony. (BTW, I hate schmoozing.) Get an award for all the wonderful things I've done this year... what was it that I did again? Doesn't matter. Follow the precisely choreographed procedure for getting the award, get offstage and admire the award between rounds of applause. Go outside the regional office to find out that my shuttle back to the airport's been cancelled because the ceremony ran long. Call up and arrange for a new shuttle pickup (which was cheaper than the reservation I made at home - go figure)and then cancel same when someone from the regional office says we'll get you back to the airport for free. Get to airport and wolf down a quick lunch (which is still loads better than anything I can get at LAX). Fly back to LAX, call the shuttle. Ride with a pissed-off shuttle driver who's decided that the best way to beat rush-hour traffic is to drive like hell through Westside side streets and canyon roads in Malibu (is my life insurance paid up?). Get home and collapse on bed.

Friday: Drag myself out of bed at some ungodly hour (after yesterday, any hour I get up is an ungodly hour), go to work. Put the award plaque on my desk so I can admire it a little more. Give training. (Why isn't anybody here for the training? Oh, right - everyone took off early for the weekend.) Take a couple more interviews in the morning. Spend the afternoon upgrading laptops, try to resolve problems with our ultra-expensive cordless headphones, and come up with a proposal to update our area's website. (Don't be too impressed - it's pre-formatted, I'm just adding content.) Come back home and collapse on bed again.

Saturday: Do all the housekeeping I've neglected for the better part of a month - vacuuming, watering plants, sweeping, mopping, laundry, errands, etc., etc. House actually looks like it's fit for human habitation again.

Sunday: Continue doing all the housekeeping I've neglected for the better part of a month. Actually start the serious work on the newsletter I've known I've had to do for the better part of a month. Stories and photos are downloaded and edited (mostly), the template's going to need a few changes, but once that's taken care of, we're ready. all I've got to do now is....zzzzzzzzz.

Monday: Another couple of errands. Get the last couple of stories I need from others to complete the newsletter. Work on the one story I have to do - a memorial piece on a very classy lady who recently passed away and the favorite memories of my boss regarding same. My bio sounds good, the boss' memories sound good, put them both together and the article's awful. (Well, maybe not awful, but I don't think it does either person justice.) Wonder for just a moment if anybody will really notice if I copy the obit from the newspaper. Have dinner and go to the blog to vent my frustrations by doing a silly piece on what I've been doing all week.

So, what's the point of all this? Damned if I know. No time to worry about that now, anyway. Back to work!

Current mood: busy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

8:37PM - Adventures in Alcohol (Tangential Edition)

Yeah, I know, it's been a while. For the last several weeks I had a lot going on in my life and something had to give, so this blog was the unwitting victim. Besides, I figured everyone could do without my whining for a while; I decided I'd come back when I had a fun story to post. Well, I've finally got a fun story to post!

It's 3:00 this morning. I was all nestled all snug in my bed, while visions of sugarplums danced in my head...

Whoops, sorry - wrong story. Take two...

It's still 3:00 this morning. I was sleeping more-or-less-soundly (being Blondie-less will do that to me) when I hear a couple of people talking pretty loudly outside my bedroom window.
Since I'm on the second floor of my building, it's annoying, but whatever - I figure they'll go away eventually.

Next thing I know, I notice sounds coming from the front door. Pushing, turning of the doorknob, gentle tapping. My momma didn't raise many stupid children (only me), so I knew better than to open the door to whoever was trying to get in. Besides, I figured eventually they'd get the hint after a couple of minutes and go away.

I was right, they did go away - for about 5 minutes. Then it started all over again. Okay, I thought, it's probably not the smartest idea in the world, but maybe if I check the peephole and the person trying to get in doesn't look too menacing, I'll open the door and they'll realize they've got the wrong place and go away. The peephole shows a wobbly young blonde and nobody else. Here goes nothing...

I crack open the door and there's a young lady (early 20s, I'd say) in an impossibly short dress. She's pretty obviously drunk. She asks for a couple of guys I've never heard of, and I politely tell her she's got the wrong place. She demurely apologizes and walks down the stairs.

I close and walk away from the door, but I start thinking: A young, drunk, and scantily clad woman is walking around knocking on doors randomly at three in the morning - I'd better do something to help her or this probably isn't going to end well for her (best case scenario is she winds up in jail, worst case scenario is she gets raped or they find her in a ditch in a couple of days). I get my sweater and my keys and decide I'll just make sure she's OK, or at least make sure she walks into the right apartment and she'll be safe.

I walk a down to the other end of the building and our blonde is standing in front of the door of another apartment. The three residents of said apartment - all young men about her age - are either at the door or on the balcony trying their best to convince her she's in the wrong place. Another neighbor who's in uniform and on his way to the Navy base doesn't know who she is, either, so the four of us gentlemen informally decide we've got to do something to get this young lady home (or at least not let her drive off while she's this plastered).

The three roommates head off in one direction to find our woman's car, and I head off with her in the other direction. She walks about a block and realizes that she's gone too far and hasn't seen her car, so we walk back the way we came. When we get back to where we started, the roommates have found the woman's cell phone (which was lying on the sidewalk) and, remembering the names of the people she was looking for, calls someone to come get her.

We all find her car - which has the doors wide open and the passenger compartment light on. In the back seat of the car is her boyfriend, who's hunched over in the back seat, naked from the waist down, and throwing up into the seat. (What a surprise, he's drunk, too!) As she's twirling around while trying to talk on her cell phone, I notice she's not wearing underwear, either, and we've pretty much confirmed what these two were up to when I heard them at the beginning of this mess.

The roommates of the boyfriend show up, put a blanket over him, grab his pants (which are sitting on the sidewalk), and take him and the woman back to their apartment - which is in the building across the street from mine. The woman insists that she's not "dumb drunk", which I'd say is debatable. The three roommates and I say 'goodnight', and I go back to my apartment, laugh hysterically for about five minutes or so, and then try to go back to sleep. About a half-hour later, I hear a car start; I look outside and it's our damsel in distress' car, being expertly driven out of a tight parallel parking space and into the night. (If it was her, she must have some experience at drunk driving - I have a tough time parallel parking on that street when I'm sober!)

Th reactions of people to this incident have been decidedly mixed. One friend of mine commended me for caring what happened to the woman; two others - including Blondie - thought that what I did was nuts and that I should have just called the police. Your thoughts?

Current mood: amused

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

10:23PM - Isn't Cold Season Supposed To Be Over Already?

Yep, got another one. I swear, this year it seems like I can't go out anywhere in public without catching another bloody cold. Or maybe I'm getting them all at work, like Blondie thinks is happening.

Okay, I'm dome complaining. Now, where are those freakin' cough drops?

Current mood: sick

Saturday, May 31, 2008

9:42PM - Books, Glorious Books...

I got the chance to attend the coolest event today - it'd be a book lover's paradise, if only the average book lover could get in to see it.

This weekend at the LA Convention Center is BookExpo America (BEA), an annual event put on by and for the publishing industry. It's a place where publishers, librarians, booksellers, writers, and other folks involved in the publishing industry get together and discuss the latest trends, hear from bestselling authors, and learn about and make deals for the latest books. I was able to get in as a representative of Blondie's book selling business (Blondie sells books, among other things, on the Internet, and BEA's willing to be a little flexible as to who a "bookseller" is as long as you pay the registration fee), and I was absolutely amazed.

First off, BEA is huge. I'm talking every bit of exhibition space in the Convention Center is being used and people are calling the size of the event "modest" huge. Every major publisher is there, most minor publishers are there, a lot of independent publishers and self-published authors are too. They've all got samples of the books they're going to be selling or currently have on sale, they have authors available to sign books and speak to folks, and of course they have sales and publicity staff available to make deals to get those books in the store. You could easily give yourself a hernia just trying to pick up everyone's catalogs, as I quickly learned as I made my way through the place.

But it's not just the catalogs some publishers give away. If an author is there for a signing at the publisher's exhibit, the publisher provides the books for the attendees; titles they're particularly interested in building a buzz about are also offered as freebies to the attendees in some cases. This can cause a bit of confusion for the first-time attendee (that'd be me), as publishers also tend to put copies of all their books on display; fortunately, you learn the difference quickly by trial and error, and the publishers' reps are relatively forgiving (although I'm sure the minute you make this mistake they've pretty much got you pegged as a newbie).

The list of authors attending this event is astounding - we're talking hundreds of them. A lot of big names are among them - today, for example, they had Anne Rice, James Patterson, Alec Baldwin, Dean Koontz, T. Jefferson Parker, Ernest Borgnine, Salman Rushdie, Hugh Hefner (okay, he didn't write the book, but he attended with Steven Watts, who wrote the book about him), Mark Spitz, and William Shatner, just to name a few. No, I didn't get to talk to all of them. (Actually, I don't think I talked to any of them. I was too entranced by being able to walk around and see more book titles than I'd ever seen in one place to want to stand in line to meet anyone.)

The attendees also have the chance to meet and get signatures from authors outside of the publishers' booths. BEA has an autograph signing area consisting of 24 lanes, each with an author at a table ready to sign for them; each hour, the authors switch out and an new group comes in, so there could potentially be hundreds of authors each day signing books. Many of them may not be well known, but some are; for the authors who are particularly well-known, attendees have to get tickets to get a signature. It's still part of the event, it's just to keep things under control.

You name the literary sub-genre, there's a section devoted to it. BEA had sections devoted to children's books, travel books, African-American books, audiobooks, cartoons/graphic novels/manga, cookbooks, and books in foreign languages.

I only arranged for a one-day pass to this thing, thinking that I might not find anything to see or do. Oops. I never made it off the exhibition floor, but each day of BEA they have panels on topics related to the industry (yesterday, they had a panel on the latest buzz-worthy books; today, they had panels on graphic novels, Latino authors, and relations between libraries and publishers. They also had special ticketed events (these require an extra fee besides registration) like breakfasts and lunches featuring panel discussions with the "superstar" authors. (Michael Moore, Magic Johnson, and Christopher Buckley attended today's special events.) If I ever get the chance to attend again, I'll have to plan to spend more time to see some of the panels and specialty events.

I'm exhausted from walking and standing all day, I'm sore in some unusual places from all the promotional material and swag I had to carry around, but I'm really glad I got the chance to attend. I think I'm actually going to be a little disappointed the when the next LA Times Festival of Books comes around - it's an amazing event, too, but BEA was even bigger, and I didn't think that was possible. Hmmm - I wonder if I could start my own bookstore on the side?

Current mood: tired

Thursday, April 24, 2008

10:01PM - And The Fun Continues...

A quick update on my post accident recovery:

The repair work on my car, estimated at 11 days, is now at 14 days and counting. But not to worry - it should be done by next Monday. Next Tuesday, at the latest. Since I'll be traveling again, that means another 10 or 11 days until I can get my car back. (No doubt about it - I'm adding rental car reimbursement to my auto policy next time...)

The driver AND the passenger (who's nine and is the daughter of the driver) have both decided they're injured, according to my insurance company. Fortunately, I've got enough coverage that they'll probably get a decent payout and I won't be taken to court. (And if they do, there's nothing to take anyway...)

The insurnace adjuster confirms that they consider me mainly at fault if not primarily at fault, so my insurance rates will probably go up, but probably not until December. (Yay?)

This is all so frustrating and disheartening that I feel like kicking something. Oh, wait, I already did that last week. Kicked a metal door, fractured my big toe. No exercise walks for about two more weeks, and I'm wearing Mickey Crocs with socks (yeah, I know it looks dorky) so that my toe has a better chance at healing properly. (The doctor did give me a "boot" for this purpose, but the Crocs fit better and are a LOT more comfortable.

Only one more week and April's over. Not soon enough, as far as I'm concerned...

Current mood: depressed

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

7:53AM - Because I Need A Distraction...

Meme nicked from ellipticcurve...

My username is _____, because ____.

Schnebs, because for years people have tried saying my last name, mangled it, and usually settled on that as something easier to deal with. When I went online, it seemed like a natural, and the name's usually available when I register someplace.

My (LJ) name is _____, because ______.

Also schnebs, 'cause I was too lazy to come up with a second name. :)

My journal is titled ____ because ____.

"Oxnard, Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista Railroad", in honor of Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Since I don't have a backyard to be home to my happy place, my railroad's key destinations are those happy places I long to be, plus home of course. Besides, it's got a little of the Jack Benny thing going for it, and it sounded better to me than calling it the "Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Railroad".

My journal is subtitled ____ because ____.

"Schnebs, President, General Manager & What Have You." Stolen straight from Walt's stationary letterhead for the Carolwood Pacific (yes, his backyard railroad even had stationary made up!). It's a nice way of reminding everyone (including myself) that I'm responsible for anything that happens on this here blog.

My friends page is called ____, because ____.

"OA&LBVRR Honorary Vice-Presidents". Continuing the theme and yet another steal from Walt.
In the days when Walt personally owned the Disneyland Railroad, he would name his friends Honorary Vice-Presidents of the Carolwood Pacific, which would entitle them to ride on the DLRR as his guests. Since I consider the folks that post in this section to be my friends (not just LJ friends, but the genuine article), I thought the folks who post here deserve the same honor. (Sorry, guys, but you'll have to buy your own tickets to ride on the Disneyland Railroad!)

Current mood: amused

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