We Survived Coffeegeddon!


thumbnailThere have been a few scenarios in my life that couldn’t have been predicted by a psychic.

The first scenario involved me being in a white Ford Econoline van with two practically complete strangers, driving up Highway 71 from Arkansas into Missouri looking for alcoholic beverages and girly magazines.

Sound outlandish? Believe it or not, it happened in December 1993 when I was working for Wal-Mart and spent two lovely weeks in Bentonville – a dry county in the middle of the Bible Belt. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

The second scenario was when I found myself jogging up Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in the morning with a used coffee maker in my hands.

But that’s exactly what I did today.

Today is National Coffee Day and to celebrate, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was offering consumers the opportunity to exchange their old coffee maker for one of their brand-new single-cup Kaldi machines (retail value of $179.95). The only stipulation was the your exchange had to have the cord still attached and there was a limit of one Kaldi per person.

When Ann saw this on Facebook she couldn’t decide if she wanted to go for a number of reasons. It wasn’t until late last night when she decided that it might be worth the risk of braving the heat and crowds to get close to $400 worth of coffee makers. And with a limit of 2,500 to give out between 11 am – 5 pm, we chose to leave the house about 8:45 this morning.

Driving through the Hollywood area is no big deal to me. I spent many days there as a teenager and know the place well enough to get anywhere. I knew exactly where the event was.

When we arrived in West Hollywood, we saw that the line was already curling about four blocks. To avoid the hassle of parking on the streets and putting money in a meter, we ended up paying $10 to park in the parking lot of The Viper Room. You know The Viper Room, right? Where River Phoenix OD’d? That’s the place.

CAM01578

Once we parked, we had to lug both of Ann’s coffee makers up Sunset Boulevard and that’s when my surreal scenario took place. In order to get a new Kaldi, you had to get a wristband from one of the event organizers so Ann told me to go ahead of her and Anthony and reserve my place in line.

That’s when I left them behind and jogged up Sunset, fulfilling my surreal experience. I then crossed the street, got my wristband and held our place in line. This was the view looking west down Sunset Boulevard.

CAM01544

There were still plenty of wristbands by the time I was in line so I called Ann and told her to take their time. They did. Ann got her wristband and we were both guaranteed a Kaldi machine.

CAM01543

Then the wait began. And it was very hot with spots of shade but nothing we stayed in for an extended period of time. Also, for those who didn’t plan properly (like us), you had to stand or worse, sit on the sidewalks – not really recommended in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the woman in line behind us was nice enough to Ann borrow one of the two chairs she had packed. I stood the entire time. We chatted with her and her family the entire time in line and they were such great people.

CAM01545

About the only things we brought with us were bottles of water and Gatorade and believe me, they came in handy in that heat. I later ran into a pizza place to grab a few slices to eat while we waited. It hit the spot but again, standing in the heat takes more out of you than what you can put into you. I kept the pizza box and used it to fan us down when we couldn’t find the shelter of shade. And when you can’t, you improvise.

CAM01563

When the line finally started to move, we saw plenty of interesting things like Mel’s Drive-In

CAM01562

…a heavily disguised Ford Escape test vehicle (the ovals gave it away)…

CAM01548

…the KTLA news van since they were covering the event…

CAM01559

…and then this, which happened right in front of us.

CAM01566

A woman – sitting on the right in the light blue shirt – apparently had a case of heat exhaustion and needed the aid of Los Angeles’ finest. She was eventually taken away in an ambulance and the situation held up the line for about 15 minutes. The poor woman waited all that time and won’t have a thing to show for it. I hope the Coffee Bean folks can track her down and give her what she was waiting for.

After about three hours in line, we were inching closer to getting our Kaldi machines. Then we finally crossed the final street and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

CAM01569

We had finally made it. High-fives from the CBTL workers. Once we crossed the threshold we were directed to a table where we turned in our old coffee makers and were given a certificate for the new one.

CAM01572

We then walked over to what looked like a wall of brand new Kaldi machines, gave our color preference (red, blue or silver), and turned in our certificate.

CAM01573

And with that, we had our new machines and the wait was over. I tweeted when we got our machines and CBTL responded.

CAM01581

Ann took the red one and we are saving the blue for a Christmas gift for some lucky person. Despite the heat, it was definitely worth the drive and wait to get something totally free – okay, in exchange for something old. The value of the machines also made it worth the trouble.

Whew, what a day! We’d like to thank The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for offering such a fantastic deal. You put a smile on Ann’s face and no doubt will make another coffee lover’s face light up on Christmas morning. And in this tough economy where there’d be no other way we could even dream of buying, let alone giving, one of these machines, your generosity is greatly appreciated. You have definitely earned our loyalty!

Advertisements

Wii U Experience in Los Angeles


Saturday was a busy day for us.

In addition to attending an L.A. Galaxy soccer game, the family went to the invitation-only Wii U Experience in Los Angeles (or more precisely, Hollywood) to experience firsthand what Nintendo’s latest system has to offer.

CAM01411

The event was held at Siren Studios on Sunset Boulevard and was scheduled to last two hours. There was a pretty big crowd waiting to get in when we got there at around 11 am, our scheduled time. Once we were checked in, we were issued our snazzy IDs with lanyard.

CAM01416

Anthony was more than happy to put his on and get to gaming.

CAM01414

After we were issued our IDs, we made our way into the studio to a small holding area where we waited until the previous group was cleared out and the studio cleaned. I’ll explain why in a bit.

CAM01417

Now this was cool. These kiosks were located at various locations in the studio, each with an event attendant. What they would do was tap your ID on the plus symbol, have you strike a pose, then look at the camera (see the small black dot below the Nintendo logo) for a photo and you were done. If you previously linked your Facebook account to your ID, the images were immediately posted to your page. Here are our pictures taken in the holding area and then with Mario.

194625_10151115648519118_268073978_o

477305_10151115680324118_1577870081_o

I couldn’t get Mario to throw a peace sign. Oh well.

Once inside we were allowed to wander as we pleased.

CAM01453

Music was pumping and all of the event workers were very enthusiastic; it made for a great vibe. (Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” was first on the playlist and seemed to fit perfectly.) Here’s Anthony giving Scribblenauts Unlimited a try with a little assistance.

CAM01423

Many of the games were still in the development phase and had working titles like The Wonderful 101 and Game & Wario.

CAM01433

One of the more fun games we tried was Wii Fit U, the third entry in the Wii Fit series. Like the other games, it was a demo version and could vary greatly by the system’s  launch. I tried the trampoline minigame and racked a score that the attendant told me was one of the highest she’d seen to date. That or she was just being nice.

CAM01438

I was happy to learn that my current Wii Fit Balance Board is compatible with Wii U but disappointed that like the last generation Wii, it will not support Gamecube games. I guess I’ll just have to hold onto my old Wii system if that’s the case. Aside from that, Wii Fit U looks to be a must-have for anybody who enjoyed the previous incarnations.

Of course with all of this gaming going on, you need some refreshments. There were plenty.

CAM01426

This is what I meant about cleaning the place up since there were plastic bottles everywhere when we left.

One of the other games we tried was Nintendo Land which consists of a bunch of minigames like Mario Party.

CAM01446

The image above shows a hide-and-seek type of game in which the person holding the main controller is Mario and is given a 10-second head start to run and hide. Mario’s exact location is only visible on the control’s display to the player controlling Mario while the other players (up to four) must rely on a hot-cold bar at the bottom of their screen. Overall, I was a bit disappointed at how slow Mario moved and as a result, I was found in no time flat.

CAM01442

New Super Mario Bros. U looks to be everything Mario fans might be expecting: multiplayer, new moves, new powers. It was the most popular game there and while we only tried it once, it was definitely fun.

And if you wanted to try a 3DS system, there were a few of those around as well. Both Ann and Anthony loved it.

CAM01428

The place was riddled with white leather couches and these cubes that changed color. I wanted to take one home.

CAM01452

There were also contests on some of the games with the winners getting small prizes. I almost won the Wii Fit U competition but was edged out. Anthony was near the host as he awarded the winner her prize then looked at Anthony, reached into his goodie bag, and game him a small tin of mushroom candies. Very cool!

CAM01457

Not to be outdone, I also won a prize at the end of the event when the host was asking trivia questions. The question I answered was simple enough if you know Nintendo’s history:

“Which was the first game Nintendo ever made?”

The answer: playing (or hanafuda) cards. Nobody else was even close! I won a little Koopa figurine that I immediately handed over to Anthony.

After the trivia questions, we escorted out and got yet another treat: mushroom cake pops! Could this day get any better?

CAM01461

Here’s a close-up. I ate it and didn’t grow as I had hoped but it was delicious.

CAM01464

And I saw these on the way out which I thought were great. You know, in case you had to go Wii before you went home.

CAM01463 CAM01462

We entered this event knowing very little about the Wii U and left it wanting to put my name on the waiting list. While the chances of that happening are pretty slim at the moment because of the Wii U’s price point of $349.99 for the 32GB system with one game, it’s definitely on my list down the road. It’s taken the Wii concept to a new level that won’t appeal to all gamers but it still a whole lot of fun. Keep in mind that we only played games at this event and did not see all that the Wii U is capable of doing: video chat (controller has a front-facing camera), TV remote control, DVR capabilities, etc.

The Wii U Experience was indeed memorable. Thanks to all involved for being great hosts and for answering all questions we had regarding the system. I’d better start saving my spare change for this one.

At LA Galaxy Game


image

It’s University of Phoenix Alumni Night. Ann earned her BSIT from UoP in 2003. It’s our first soccer game and so far it’s been interesting.

Welcome Home, Endeavour


It’s been quite an amazing year in terms of astronomy and things related to the subject.

So far this year, we’ve witnessed a handful of events including the Super Moon, a solar eclipse, and the Venus transit. We also witnessed the Perseid Meteor Shower which was indeed amazing but because I couldn’t provide photographic evidence due to the illumination in my part of the city (and honestly, my lack of skills in shooting meteors), I didn’t blog about it. The only thing I can say about it is this: wow. If you’ve never taken the time to see it, do yourself a favor and make it a point next year.

And today, we here in southern California witnessed the final ferried flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it takes up permanent residence at the California Science Center. The media coverage on this event was absolutely insane but the one thing missing was the actual flight pattern of the shuttle; we only knew that it was supposed to make the rounds across local landmarks as seen below:

route1

And up until this map was released, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to see it because of where I work. But once I took a good look at the map I soon realized that my office – I’m down near the last downward-pointing arrow on the right below Boeing – was in the projected flight path.

Just in case, I charged my camera battery the night before and took the camera with me. According to all reports, it was expected to arrive over southern California at about 11:30 am so I headed up to the top of our parking structure at that time. From that point on, I was depending on Twitter updates and newsradio reports to let me know where the shuttle was.

It wasn’t until about 12 pm when more people began to show up. It was lunchtime, you know. So I continued to get reports on the location of the shuttle.

Santa Monica. Malibu. Approaching downtown L.A. Hollywood sign. Griffith Park. JPL.

Then, finally, heading south toward Disneyland – and my office.

I had turned off the radio and Twitter and put my trust in my own eyes as well as the reactions of the people who had gathered. Once they started pointing and running, I knew it had arrived.

One problem: it didn’t fly over us as scheduled. From what I had seen, a plane departed John Wayne Airport very close to the time the shuttle was supposed to fly over us. (This is only my speculation; there may be another reason for it.) Unfortunately, this meant that the shuttle missed flying over us entirely, but I was still able to see it.

Here are a few of the shots from today, cropped to the subject since they had to be diverted.

Space Shuttle Endeavour 040

Since it flew by so quickly, most of the shots I took look like this. The one below is about the only different composition.

google shuttle

It happened so fast I didn’t really have time to think about what I was witnessing: the final ferried flight of any Space Shuttle orbiter. It truly is the end of an era in both NASA and American history.

I stood on top of the structure taking pictures until Endeavour was no longer visible. I was just glad I had the opportunity to see it in flight for my first and final time.

Endeavour now sits at Los Angeles International Airport where it will be removed from the back of the modified 747 and in October, moved via trailer to the California Science Center.

And depending on when that move happens, I will try my best to be a part of that as well. Either way, you can bet we will make many, many trips to see it once on display.

Welcome home, Endeavour. We’re happy to have you here.

This Is Disturbing


CAM01324

The picture you see above is from a Just For Men commercial in which a baby is depicted with a goatee, but not just any goatee. Since JFM is a product aimed at men who have graying hair (myself included), it’s assumed that the kid not only had a goatee at such an early age but it was also graying.

I know, I know. The point here is that dying your goatee will make you look and feel younger. On a side note, I shaved mine off months ago because it was getting too damned gray and think that now I look at least a few years younger. None of this crazy baby shit for me.

But seriously, who the eff thought this was funny, catchy, or otherwise amusing? If there’s anything that makes me laugh less in a commercial than monkeys doing human things, it’s a baby going adult things and I’m a parent. This ad is fucking stupid in every way: he drives, he dances, he’s the coolest mutherfugger in the club – and all the ladies love him.

Now suppose we switch genders and present a baby girl who dyed her hair and had a bunch of dudes adoring her. Yeah, I think you get the idea. You’d be on the horn with the authorities in a New York minute.

But even if you don’t switch, this commercial still sucks. Plain and simple.