I’ve been playing a lot of Forza 4 recently and spending more time in the game’s photo mode.  I end up spending a lot of time taking photos since I prefer the 3840×2160 “Big Shots” and those take a couple minutes to create and upload to their servers and have to be downloaded one at a time.  Here’s some of the images I’ve made in game recently.

 – Ferrari 458 Italia

 – Koenigsegg CCX sliding around the Benchmark Test Track

 – Fiat 500 Abarth, painted to look like the Ferrari 695 Tributo edition, driving around Hockenheim Ring at sunrise

 – Lexus LFA flying around Infineon Raceway

     – Audi R8 LMS driving the Circuit de La Sarthe

   – Porsche Carrera GT also at Le Sarthe

   – Honda Integra Type-R


I’m having some trouble getting certain pictures sharp.  It seems that when I add some shutter speed to create motion blur, the camera isn’t panning with the car and the car ends up with a slight blur as well.  Probably doesn’t show up too much in the standard 1280×720 pictures, but is much more noticeable in the Big Shots.  It’s preventing me from taking some pictures at the angles I want.

Perhaps one day soon I’ll post some of the 600+ pictures I’ve taken in Gran Turismo 5 (though not all 600 I promise)



Random Photo for 7/30/12


We had lunch yesterday at a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale called Barrio Queen.  It’s not your typical Mexican food, but it was very good.  I took this photo of the light fixture above our table.  All the little squares were making some great looking reflections of us and our table, but they didn’t show up as well in the photo.  I liked the way it turned out better, instead of reflecting the table, it only reflected the light bulb.  I cropped it down some to keep the focus on the light and fixture, then I adjusted the levels and de-saturated the image to get the final.

SDCC/Disneyland Road Trip day 5 Sunday 7/15/12: The Long Road Home

Sunday began as Saturday ended.  Me and cuz had just ridden Star Tours and since it was after midnight, the park was closed.  I took out my tripod and set about taking some pictures.  I mainly stayed near the castle and Fantasyland for the evening.  I hear horror stories of security hassling other photographers using their tripods at night, so I was slightly worried someone was going to make me stop.  Luckily, any cast members I saw just walked by and wished me a happy birthday.  Cuz seemed to be bored as we moved from spot to spot.  After 45 minutes or so I decided to call it a night.  We headed back to the room and fell asleep around 1:30.

 – tried to recreate a shot I took on my last trip that turned out slightly blurry last time

 – Snow White’s Grotto

 – Sleeping Beauty Castle sideview

       – scenes from Fantasyland

     – shots from around the Partners statue – I zoomed out while taking this photo to create the effect

 – Main Street USA

 – across the esplanade

I ended up falling asleep with my glasses on and woke up to find Mom standing over me trying to take them off.  I was startled awake at 7 by this turn of events and discovered that Mom was dressed and getting ready to head to the parks to use the early entry to get some more rides in Fantasyland.  The prospect of flying to Neverland, plus a nearly empty park had me up and out the door with her.  We left cuz sleeping since she didn’t have a ticket and probably wouldn’t have gotten up anyways.  Once again we took the monorail in and headed off to visit Peter with a 5 minute wait.  After de-boarding our flying pirate ships, Snow White, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland were all walk ons.  After riding most of Fantasyland, I took some photos of the castle while Mom used the bathroom.

   – castle in the morning

We headed over to Tomorrowland where I once again boarded a Starspeeder 1000 for a trip to far off places.  Mom doesn’t ride Star Tours, so she waited and looked around the gift shop until I finished.  We always like to get a ride on Buzz when we’re there, so we walked right on.  I got the high score of course.  By now it was 8 and the park was officially opened.

Mom wanted to head back to the room to pack and get ready to check out.  I wanted to see if the Lily Belle was running and try and get a quick ride in.  As I neared the station I noticed Chip or Dale standing alone.  His brother was nearby, but had a crowd so I had the lonely chipmunk’s handler take a photo of us together.  The Lily Belle was running, but not until later in the day when we’d be gone.  One of these times I’ll ride in that car.  As I left the Main Street station, the various Main Street Vehicles were loading up and I figured I’d hop on one.  I chose the horse-drawn carriage and had a lovely, peaceful ride up Main Street.

   – Chip or Dale, I don’t know which one

 – Main Street USA

My carriage ride ended back in front of the castle and I didn’t have any other plans so I just started walking out.  As I passed the entrance to Adventureland I decided to see if I could get a Dole Whip this early in the day.  Apparently ice cream is not acceptable at 8 in the morning so I couldn’t get one.  Since I was in the area I figured I’d check on the Jungle Cruise and see if they had any excursions leaving soon.  They did!  I haven’t ridden this in years and I don’t know why.  The skipper was great and he even made a Star Wars reference.  When he fired his gun to scare the hippos he made a comment about hippos scaring easily but that they’d soon be back and in greater numbers.  Loved it.  Upon returning from my cruise I climbed Tarzan’s Treehouse to see what kind of views it offered.  I wonder if they close that off during Fantasmic & the Fireworks, could be neat to watch from up there.  I had bought a toy version of the RSR ride vehicle yesterday in DCA, Mom thought it was cute and wanted one of her own.  I don’t think they had them in any of the Disneyland stores, so I figured I’d surprise her and go buy one for her before we left.  I was feeling a bit peckish as I was passing the Jolly Holiday Bakery and popped in to get a pastry to tide me over.  As soon as I saw it, I knew what my order would be.  A humongous cinnamon roll dripping with frosting.  You can’t have ice cream at 8, but a bucket of frosting is acceptable.  I sat down next to Main Street and just took it all in.  I felt a little guilty to be eating this breakfast alone while Mom and cuz were waiting for me to return so I didn’t mention that I ate anything.  I only planned to make it known to them if they read this or looked at the pictures.  After we returned home Mom confessed that she had stopped and got something in Tomorrowland on her way out and didn’t call me to join her.  Guess we both wanted to eat alone.

   – Jungle Cruise

 – view from Tarzan’s

 – breakfast of champions

After enjoying my secret breakfast I said goodbye to Disneyland for this time and hello again to DCA.  I didn’t get a drink with my breakfast and I was going to stop at the Cozy Cone for another Red’s Apple Freeze, but decided on trying another new drink.  I got Ramone’s Pear of Dice soda, sprite with desert pear and mojito syrups.  Also good, but I preferred Red’s.  I planned to surprise Mom with the car because when I bought mine I only saw blue cars.  This morning in a different store they had other colors, so I had to call and make sure I got the right color.  I finished my drink and bid farewell to the roaring 20’s of Buena Vista Street.

 – quick Buena Vista Street pano

 – the grizzly was calling

Upon returning to the room I was slightly shocked to see that cuz had woken up.  We packed up our stuff and called for a bellhop to store our luggage as we did some last minute shopping in Downtown Disney.  The girls headed out while I waited for the bellhop.  I took a couple more photos of the room before he arrived.

   – Disneyland Hotel room

In Downtown Disney I tried to make the most of my passholder discount.  I bought a few Vinylmations and Mom bought a gift for our neighbor for watching the house.  Cuz bought a tank top she wanted as part of her back to school attire.  We loaded our new purchases up with the rest of our luggage and headed up I-5 to visit Mom’s Nina in Los Angeles.  We had lunch with her and some of her family at Shakey’s, another good place we don’t have here, before getting on the road to head home around 4:30.  We listened to some more comedy albums on the way home and between Patrice O’Neal & Hannibal Burress I had to really focus to keep my eyes on the road.  Good comedy may not be the best thing while driving.  We dropped cuz off at her home and finally made it back to our home around midnight.

It was a trip with a lot of firsts.  First year I wasn’t completely thrilled with my SDCC experience.  I’ll still be online in August trying to get tickets for next year though.  First time staying at the Disneyland Hotel.  Mom really loved it there.  First time experiencing a lot of new attractions at Disneyland.

I won’t presume to speak for the others, but I had a blast.  Disney has something really good on their hands with Cars Land and all three of the new rides are winners in my book.  I still struggle with the balance of a family trip and taking time to take photos the way I want to.  I guess I’ll just have to take more trips to get some more experience.

SDCC/Disneyland Road Trip day 4 Saturday 7/14/12: Get Your Kicks

Cuz is at that age where she thinks she’s grown-folk, yet still wanted a wake-up call from Mickey on Saturday morning.  Who am I kidding?  I totally wanted a Mickey wake-up call for myself.  Cuz woke up for Mickey at 5 am and promptly tried to go back to sleep.  That wasn’t going to happen though since we had to get up and get ready for park opening at 7 for hotel guests.

Our Fellowship of the Mouse got to the monorail entrance at 7 and took the first ride in.  Me and cuz rode Matterhorn while Mom joined Tink & Peter Pan on a flight to Neverland.  The new Matterhorn cars are pretty uncomfortable.  I just kept banging my knees against the back of the seat in front of me.  After getting the band back together, we traveled across the esplanade to deal with the Cars Land morning madness.

 – inside of Manny the monorail

 – mustn’t be late

 – Partners

Mom & cuz headed for the rope to wait with the crowd of people while I took our tickets and got in the fastpass line, it was about 7:50.  A cast member came and told us that where we were standing we would have over an hour wait.  I opted to get out of line and go find Mom & cuz in the scrum.  At 8 o’clock, this sea of humanity was led to Cars Land and specifically Radiator Springs Racers.  The sign said it was already a 100 minute wait by the time we got there.  Disaster nearly struck right as we were entering the queue.  An announcement was made that RSR would be down briefly.  Nobody got out of line though and after about 15 minutes the ride was back up & running.  And a cheer went up through the crowd!  Radiator Springs is all about the idea of water to fill up a car’s radiator.  The RSR queue reflects this and one of the buildings has a bunch of old radiator caps screwed on the wall for decoration.  One of the walls has prices for radiator caps for car manufacturers from the pre-interstate era of motoring.  I loved all the little car details in the line.  As we neared the front of the line, we were directly behind the next people in line, but still had to snake around one  more time.  The next couple of groups who were getting on, were apparently groups of 4 or more because they asked us how many people were in our party and like the number of circles used to make a Mickey symbol, 3 was the correct answer.  They let us through and we hopped in our open-top vehicles.  Radiator Springs Racers is a fantastic ride.  It starts off with a nice calm build up outside as you pass the bridge and waterfall.  Then you go inside and it becomes a classic Disney dark ride that recounts the first movie.  You are either led to Luigi’s for some new tires or Ramone’s for a paint job, we got the tires, before making your way to the starting line.  A couple seconds later another car pulled up beside us, and after a brief countdown we were off on a high-speed race against our competitors.  We lost, but I think the race adds such a great element to the ride.

 – Cars Land morning rush

     – Radiator Springs Racers queue

     – Radiator Springs Racers

All three of us wanted to hop right back in line, but didn’t want to wait 150 minutes.  We decided we’d go flying on some tires even though Luigi’s had a 1 hour wait.  The queue for Luigi’s features old style race posters for races like Le Mans and Monza, but with the cars done in the Cars movie style.  There’s also a section with big glass cases that have race memorabilia and “signed” photos to Luigi & Guido from the other racers in the Cars movies.  Once again, I absolutely loved all the details in there.  I seriously want some of those old race style Ferrari posters.  I told Mom & cuz to try and disregard the beach balls and just have fun flying around.  They rode together while I was alone again.  Luigi’s is like a big air hockey table.  As you lean forward slightly the front of the vehicle dips down slightly and with the back of the vehicle in the air, the air being pushed up from the ground pushes you forward.  It can be tricky to get the hang of at first, and after my 2nd ride I definitely felt much more experienced.  If you have multiple people in your vehicle and they lean opposite directions, you’re not going anywhere.  If you lean too far you’ll bottom out, and you’re not going anywhere.  It seems that most people go for the beach balls.  I’m guessing it’s so they can throw them at the people they came with.  All in good fun of course.  I notice this leads to most of the tires being on one side or the other of the ride area, with the middle mostly free.  I didn’t care about the beach balls and had fun just trying to control the tire and go from end to end crashing into people who were more preoccupied with the balls.  Cuz said she tried to forget about the beach balls and just fly, but that Mom couldn’t resist the allure of plastic filled with air.

         – Luigi’s Flying Tires queue

We all enjoyed our time as tire pilots.  After 2 hours of waiting, Mom was ready to sit down and take a break.  We left her at Flo’s and went to ride Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree.  I like the Cars movies, but I’m not a big fan of Mater, and this was my least anticipated of the three new rides.  The queue features some real life versions of props taken from the Mater’s Tall Tales shorts.  Not yet winning me over.  Watching the ride as you wait, it just didn’t look too exciting.  Still not winning me over.  Me and cuz rode together and after I squished her against the side of the car for the first time, I was won over.  Mater’s was really a surprising amount of fun.  You ride in a trailer behind these “baby tractors” as they go around on giant discs on the ground.  As you go around and as you switch from disc to disc, the trailer swings wildly back and forth and it really whips you around with some force.  Watching the ride before doesn’t adequately prepare you for the force with which it whips you.   Cuz liked it too despite the injuries she acquired from me squishing her against the side of the car as we flung around.

 – Mater’s Grizzly Jamboree

Meanwhile Mom had made her way over to the Cozy Cone for some popcorn and a Doc’s Wild Grape Tonic.  It’s Sprite with wild grape syrup and a wild berry foam.  She loved it.  I suggest you reread that sentence again to fully comprehend her affection for this drink.  I had a drink and it tastes like grape soda, but then the lemon-lime of the Sprite comes in at the end.  I enjoyed it, but nowhere near the level to which she did.  It was decided that Little Mermaid would be the next ride since I enjoy it, cuz hadn’t ridden it, and Mom didn’t remember that she liked it.  As we made our way there, cuz wanted to ride California Screamin’.  She was going to have to go it alone since me  and mom don’t ride it.  The wait said it was only 25 minutes, so we figured we’d take another break.  While waiting, I went to see how long the wait for Toy Story Mania was, but at 45 minutes I didn’t want to leave them waiting for me.  Turns out I could’ve rode it, since cuz wasn’t back for about 45 minutes anyways.  It’s okay because I rode another ride anyways, King Triton’s Carousel.  After watching it go round and round for 30 minutes I just couldn’t resist to get on it with all the little kids.

 – Paradise Pier

 – ready for take off


Cuz eventually came back and we once again headed to take a trip under the sea.  I wish more people rode this.  I think it’s such a good ride and it seems to never have a wait.  Oh well, I guess that just means more Ariel for me.  Our school of fishes came back up for air and Mom remembered that she liked that ride.  We were hungry and it was decided that we would see if Chef Oscar was around and eat at Carnation Cafe.

   – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

 – I hear the hotel in the background has horrible service

 – Mickey greeting some people we don’t know


Chef Oscar wasn’t there, but lunch was good anyways.  Mom had the chicken-fried chicken (none of us really read that and were all surprised at what came out since we thought it was regular fried chicken), cuz ordered the cheeseburger, while I oped for the turkey sandwich and the baked potato soup.  Potato soups are my kryptonite.  I love sweets, but I can pass up cake & ice cream.  I’ve yet been able to resist a potato soup.  The soup was fantastic, very thick with big chunks of potatoes.  The turkey sandwich was good, but I’d order more sauce next time.  The others said their food was delicious.  I also got a birthday sundae since I was still wearing my birthday button.  By now it was about 2 and Mom had just about enough.  She went back to the room to rest while me and cuz continued our journey.  It was hot out so we decided that getting wet on Splash Mountain was a good idea.  Everybody else seemed to have this idea though as evidenced by the 75 minute wait.  We decided to get fastpasses instead.  The Haunted Mansion had a wait of about 10 minutes so we hopped in line.  I’m glad cuz didn’t become ghost number 1,000 since her parents are quite fond of her and that would’ve been hard to explain.  As we were passing New Orleans Square I remembered that I wanted to find Club 33.  I’ve never looked for it, and couldn’t really imagine where it was at based on the pictures I’d seen.  I found it pretty easily and proceeded to take the same pictures that everybody else does so that I could continue the tradition of not giving any clues as to it’s actual whereabouts.  Here’s where it is anyways.  It’s between the gift shop that sells Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise and the Blue Bayou Restaurant.  Turn left as you exit Pirates of the Caribbean and you’ll spot it right next to the Blue Bayou.  After being reminded that we were poor and couldn’t visit the exclusive club, Big Thunder Mountain was calling us, and with a 25 minute wait we answered that call.  When we were finally safe from the runaway mine car I saw the Mark Twain Riverboat loading.  We got on board to experience another new attraction for both of us.  It was a nice cruise around the Rivers of America and it never ceases to amaze me how many small details Disney puts into areas like this that so many people will never see.  Such as the fish that jump back and forth next to the boy fishing on a log.  We stepped back into the present day and made our way to the future.  Space Mountain was our next stop.  Right as we entered the indoor part of the queue, the ride broke down.  It was only down for about 15 minutes though and soon we were blasted off into the darkness of space.  It was now just before 5 and I wanted to see the Voices of Liberty before watching Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and then head back to the room.  I failed to inform cuz of my plans though and she didn’t want to see any shows, just do more rides.  I was disappointed because a week before we left she had mentioned wanting to see Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which I wanted to as well, and now she claims to have never made such a statement.  I’ll be back before the Voices of Liberty leave Disneyland so we skipped it and went back to the room so I could get my tripod and rest a little.


 – the elusive Club 33

     – views from the Rivers of America

Mom was asleep when we got back to the room, so me and cuz just relaxed and sat for a spell.  I knew we were going to be out late and we’d be tired when we came back, but I wanted to visit Trader Sam’s sometime during this trip.  Once the girls had gotten up and started to get ready I headed down for a quick drink.  I had a Piranha Pool, imagine a blue raspberry icee but with liquor.  We went back to DCA to buy some chocolate we had seen earlier and to see how long the RSR line was.  Cuz thought I was crazy because I was excited by the colors the setting sun was casting on Buena Vista Street.  I got a mint brownie ear hat and mom got a chocolate dipped marshmallow thing.  Cuz wanted a specialty candy apple but didn’t want to pay for one.

 – Oswald’s

   – our chocolates with the Carthay Circle Restaurant as the backdrop

 – Carthay Circle Restaurant


She wanted to ride Tower of Terror, alone again since me and Mom stay away from haunted places that don’t have grim grinning ghosts in them.  On our way we stopped in the Animation Academy so I could show cuz the Toy Story zoetrope.  I think this is pretty fantastic and I could see it being missed by so many people who don’t go in that building.  Cuz rode ToT and while walking around I noticed MuppetVision 3D was about to start.  Being on my list of things I’ve never seen I walked in and took a seat.  I’m glad I experienced it, but I didn’t like it.  It could be because I grew up with the Muppet Babies and not the regular Muppets, so the non baby versions are just weird to me.  The Mad T Party was going on, so I danced my way back to where mom and cuz were waiting.

 – Toy Story zoetrope

 – it seems this should just be outside of Disneyland

We walked over to Cars Land to find that RSR still had a 2+ hour wait so we decided to go to Flo’s for dinner.  Cuz didn’t want any of that grown-up food and wanted some pretzel bites from the Cozy Cone instead.  Mom waited at Flo’s and sent me to watch cuz and to get her another Doc’s Wild Grape Tonic.  We got back just as Mom was finished in line.  Mom had the N.Y. Strip Loin with some sort of sauce with mashed potatoes and corn medley, I had the Citrus Turkey with sauce with mashed potatoes and pasta salad.  I preferred her meat to mine, our other two side dishes were good but nothing special, we both really liked the mashed potatoes.  After eating the three of us went on Mater’s.  This time me and mom rode together while cuz floundered around on her own.  By now it was 9:30, Mom’s bedtime and she was ready to go back to the room.  Me and cuz stayed to get some rides in.  Soaring was a 15 minute wait so we took to the skies of California.  I wanted to stay and take some photos of an empty Cars Land after the park closed, but I also wanted to make sure I rode Star Tours over at DisneyLand.  I figured with the long waits of Luigi’s and RSR, Cars Land really wouldn’t be empty for a while and just decided to head over to DisneyLand to get some more rides in for cuz since it’ll probably be a while before she gets back.

             – Cars Land at night

     – dinner at Flo’s

     – Buena Vista Street at night

Back in Walt’s park, Fantasmic was getting ready to start so crowds were lined up along the Rivers of America.  Splash was a walk on and the right side of my pants got soaked, luckily my backpack with my camera equipment was on the left side of the boat.  Pirates was so empty, there were 4 people in our boat including us.  After narrowly avoiding a bout of scurvy, we discovered that Fantasmic had just ended and the crowds were getting thick.  Indiana Jones had a 35 minute wait and Cuz wanted to look into the Forbidden Eye.  Despite mine and Indy’s warnings that it wasn’t a good idea.  We escaped with our lives and I made my way to Star Tours.  There was a 15 minute wait and since it was 11:50, this would be the last ride of the day.  We grabbed our flight glasses and boarded our Starspeeder 1000.  After escaping the Stormtroopers, we headed to Hoth to fight some AT-ATs, then Admiral Ackbar gave us coordinates to Coruscant to safely deliver the rebel spy.  The new Star Tours is fantastic and cuz liked it too.  Then it was Sunday, and that’s a different day.

Would security give me trouble for using a tripod at night?  Would we make it home the next day?  You’ll have to come back to find out the answer to those questions and many more.

SDCC/Disneyland Road Trip day 3 Friday 7/13/12: The Line That Wouldn’t End

Friday the 13th started off the same way as Thursday the 12th.  Breakfast at the hotel before heading to the con around 8.  I was up much earlier and I knew I should have left at 7:15, but was being lazy apparently.  Mom & cuz weren’t trying to go too early even though they wanted to try and buy the Monster High exclusive.  So I left them behind to hopefully get in line for Ballroom 20 before it got too crazy.  My biggest point of interest was the Firefly 10 year reunion panel with almost the entire cast scheduled to be there.  That started at 12:30, so I was hoping to get in early enough for the first panel of the day, Community.  I love that show so I wanted to get into that one.  I’ve just started to finally watch Avatar, so I didn’t mind sitting through the Legend of Korra panel that was between the two I wanted to see.

 – day 2 of SDCC, let’s go!

I made a beeline for Ballroom 20 and a huge crowd of us were directed towards the end of the line.  So we started walking towards the end we couldn’t see.  After we made our way down the stairs and saw just how far it stretched, the whole situation started to become comical.  We finally stopped somewhere in a park behind the convention center near the water.  There was a strong chance we wouldn’t get into the Firefly panel, but most of us decided to stick around and see if the people who were in front of us would start to leave.

Around 9:30 I threw in the towel.  We couldn’t go up the stairs we came down, so I was forced to go all the way around the convention center yet again.  I should bring a pedometer one of these years to see just how much walking I actually do.  Upon entering the exhibit hall I went back to the Hallmark line to try and help out another local Star Wars collector who couldn’t make it this year.  The line was already too long and I knew I wouldn’t be successful so I headed to Funko to try for their exclusive Vinylmations.  After loitering for a few minutes since the line was temporarily capped, they made the dreaded announcement that they were sold-out.  A quick call provided the information that Mom & cuz were nearby and we joined forces to wander around aimlessly together.  They had missed out on getting the Monster High exclusive and after getting her yearly quota of Monster High info Mom didn’t have anything else she wanted to do.

 – Assassins

 – another little kid who’s parent forced them to dress up in a Doctor Who related outfit

 – Dr. Strange

 – blinged out Deadpool

 – Bioshock splicer

   – slave Leia with some other costumed women at the Gentle Giant booth

 – cool looking Gentle Giant Darth Maul statue

 – Domo trying to eat me

 – one of the rarest things at Comic-Con – comics

 – DC’s Mad mural

 – Star Wars characters at the Kotobukiya booth

 – Fett

 – Winter is coming

Having not made it into the Firefly panel and our hotel check-out time rapidly approaching, we (aka Mom) decided we should leave and start to head towards Anaheim.  I knew there was nothing else I wanted to see or accomplish, but it’s still sad to leave SDCC for the final time each year.

 – I’m not sure why the Three Stooges were with the sexy nuns, but then Dr. Evil showed up and things got really weird.

Me and my loyal companions stopped at Pei Wei for lunch before leaving town.  They apparently forgot my food with the others, but we got free lettuce wraps out of it, so it all balances out.  We hit a little traffic driving into Anaheim, but the drive was otherwise fine.  We got to Anaheim  around 3 and headed to The Disneyland Hotel for our first stay there.  Mom fell in love with the place when we visited in February, and since it wasn’t much more than our previous hotel in San Diego had been, it didn’t add too much to stay there and go to Disneyland for a day instead of sticking around San Diego being taunted by the show I couldn’t go to.  At least that was the argument I presented her with when I was trying to persuade her we should go to Disneyland and see the Disney California Adventure expansion.  We got a room in the Adventure Tower and it was great.  Plenty of space and nice little Mickey adornments around the room.  I think Mom fell even more in love with the place.

    – couple from the room

 – Sorceror’s hat at the hotel

 – part of the Lego store refurbishment

Mom & me are planning a trip to visit Walt Disney World for the first time in 20+ years in December.  After thinking about the cost of those tickets and how much we would be spending this weekend we decided to upgrade our one-day park hoppers to Premiere Annual Passports so we can visit any of the six American Disney parks as many times as we wanted for the next year.

 – I still grab a map

I felt it was only right to make sure the passes worked properly, but since cuz only had a one-day her & Mom went back to the hotel to check out the pool’s Monorail slides.  The look on cuz’s face when I said I’m going to Disneyland right now was pretty funny.

 – Disneyland Hotel Monorail slide pool

Free of the other two I entered The Happiest Place on Earth with no plans, just excited to be there.  I went to the right under the train and remembered there was something neat at the Disney Gallery so I stopped in there.  The neat thing was an exhibit about art of the Disney castles with the centerpiece being an amazing model of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland Paris.  After checking out the castle artwork I started towards City Hall and came across the end of the Flag Retreat Ceremony just as the Dapper Dan’s were singing the National Anthem.  Good way to get my patriotic pride up right before the Olympics.  USA!  USA! USA!  I went in City Hall and picked up a birthday button since my birthday is coming up soon.  I hadn’t left the room planning on actually visiting the parks so while I had my camera and an extra lens in my pocket I didn’t have anything else and it was at this time that I noticed the memory card in my camera only had 10 photos left.  I guess I was just going to have to enjoy the parks and not worry about taking pictures.

 – model of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris

After happily letting the Cast Member know I wouldn’t be needing a hand stamp I headed across the esplanade to say hello to the new Disney California Adventure.  Buena Vista Street is beautifully done, such an improvement over the old Sunshine Plaza.  I love the look of all the new buildings.  I don’t know where I expected Cars Land to be, but it seemed much closer than I thought.

 – new entrance to DCA

 – Mortimer’s Market

 – Carthay Circle Restaurant

I love cars, the first Cars movie, and would love to take a trip down Route 66 someday.  So I might be a bit biased in saying that Cars Land is exceptional.  It’s straight out of the movie.  Unfortunately Radiator Springs Racers was down for the night so I wouldn’t get a chance to try it out tonight.  I wasn’t too concerned with riding a bunch of rides though I just wanted to soak it all up.  I stopped by the Cozy Cone to get a snack and a drink.

 – entrance to Cars Land

 – first view of Radiator Springs

I had heard good things about Red’ Apple Freeze at Cone #4 and luckily that cone seems to never have a line, so I ordered one of those and some pretzel bites with cheese sauce.  Red’s Apple Freeze is a frozen concoction consisting of apple juice and marshmallow syrup all topped with a passion fruit-mango foam.  A weird combination but one I liked.  The foam was tart in contrast to the drinks sweetness.  The pretzel bites were good, but standard.  As I was walking around eating one of the new street shows was starting up.  DJ’s Dance Groove had just started so I watched that for a bit before finishing my food on a bench.  Luigi’s Flying Tires had a 50 minute wait, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyways.  The wait was pretty accurate, but I didn’t mind at first since I loved looking at all the little details in the interior part of the queue.  I was noticing all the people on the ride were just trying to grab the beach balls and not really make their tires move, I decided I’d forget about the beach balls and just try to fly around.  I think I made the right decision, once you figure the tires out I had good fun flying from side to side and crashing into the groups of people who weren’t moving.

 – DJ’s Dance Groove

 – Lightning McQueen going by for his meet and greet

My phone was about to die so I decided I’d start to make my back to the room in case Mom & cuz wanted to do something for dinner.  As I was walking out though “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” was about to start with no wait so I grabbed a seat.  Being one of the many things I’ve never experienced at DCA I figured I’d check it out.  I enjoyed my time as a bug.  I came out of A Bug’s Land near the new Red Car Trolley station just as the trolley was getting ready to leave and they had one spot open.  Guess who took that spot?  We were about to take off when one of the other new street shows pulled out in front of us, so we let them get a head start on us.  While not the quickest way to get around, it’s kind of neat to see the old-fashioned ads for the new stores on Buena Vista Street.  I’d recommend checking out the stop near the Tower of Terror since every time I looked at the stop near the park entrance it seemed to have a line.  I said goodbye for the night and got back to the room.  Mom & cuz were already back from the pool and we were all hungry.  It was decided that I would drive to Taco Bell to acquire our dinner for the evening.  After dinner we were watching TV in the room when we discovered this surprise while trying to turn on the light.

 – remember the headboard from earlier, it does this

We all hit the hay early since we were planning on being up early to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours for hotel guests.

How many times would we ride RSR?  Would I finally be talked onto Tower of Terror?  You’ll just have to wait for the next part.

SDCC/Disneyland Road Trip day 2 Thursday 7/12/12: The Wandering

After waking up from my uncomfortable fold-out bed, we had breakfast at the hotel.   After getting some nourishment in my body, I left mom and cuz getting ready while I went to be with my people.

After walking along the convention center, around the Marriott, and finding the end of the line near the marina, I got in line for my badge.  Not too bad, last year I was much farther back, but I soon found out there was a reason for that.  I forgot to charge my 3DS the night before so when I pulled it out in line I only had a little bit of power left. I was only able to get about 20 spotpasses in the morning because of that.

 – my spot in line

The line moved fairly quickly and we soon found ourselves upstairs getting our badges.  The reason the line outside wasn’t as long was because everybody else was apparently already upstairs waiting to get onto the show floor.  Us late arrivals were ushered around to the other end of the convention center.  By the time I made my way around they had already opened the doors to let people in.  Immediately I worked my way through the crowd and went directly to Hallmark’s booth.  Actually I went directly to their line.

 – from the back of the Hallmark line (the two lines on the right are for SDCC t-shirts)

I spent the next hour and 20 minutes passing time by swapping SDCC war stories with some of the other people in line.  When you near the front of Hallmark’s line they hand out buttons so the cashiers know you actually waited in line and didn’t just waltz up.  Any person who has ever waited in a line to buy some sort of convention exclusive fears the moment when the staff come out and announces that they have sold out of the item you just waited an hour or more to buy.  As we got our buttons they didn’t make that announcement, but they did let us know they were running low on the Star Wars ornaments.  We finally got to the booth itself, and just to play on our anxieties even more, they let us know they would probably run out of the Star Wars ornaments somewhere around me.  Eventually one of the staffers started counting us.  I didn’t know what she was counting for, I just knew I didn’t want her to stop in front of me.  6, 7, 8 (that’s me!), 9.  That’s it, that’s the last person to get a chance to buy the Star Wars ornament today.  Whew!  Relief for those of us she counted, slight dejection for the people behind us.  Guess they’d have to try again tomorrow.

   – couple of booth set ups

With my main mission accomplished I made my way to the Square Enix booth to purchase their exclusive Batman figure.  There was no line and I also picked up their Solid Snake figure, which wasn’t an exclusive, I just wanted it.  After drooling over their upcoming toys, I headed to the AFX booth for their exclusive Minimates.  AFX ended up selling all the various exclusive Minimates that were available this year, so that made for some quick and easy one-stop shopping.

With all the exclusives I planned to purchase acquired I set about wandering aimlessly around the exhibit hall.  I stopped by Sony’s booth and played a couple upcoming PSN games.  Papo & Yo is kind of hard for me to describe.  I’ll just link to their website and you can check it out for yourself.  I didn’t really know what I was doing at the beginning of the demo, but once I got the hang of it, it was awesome.  I also played Sound Shapes, a music platformer, because they were giving out free t-shirts for playing.  I ended up liking this one as well.  I’ll be buying both of them when they come out later this year.  Before I left the booth I wanted to check out the Vita games they brought since I’m still trying to be convinced to buy one.  The only Vita game I played was Guacamelee.  This was a pretty neat platformer with a dimension switching hook.  Worth checking out if you have a Vita, but still not enough to suck me in.  All the other game company lines were far too long for me to want to wait to play anything else.

   – adorable baby Dalek and Mega Man

I went by the Funko booth and saw their exclusive Vinylmations that were already sold out for the day.  Maybe I can convince my mom to come here first thing tomorrow.  I wanted to go by Gentle Giant’s booth and check out their new stuff I probably won’t purchase, but there were some costumed people in the booth so I couldn’t really move around to look at anything.  I headed to Sideshow to see what amazing products they’ll have coming out that will make me want to sell some of my organs on the black market to be able afford to afford them.  In particular I liked the Hot Toys Batmobiles, the Commander Shepherd premium format, the Isaac Clarke premium format, the Galactus maquette, all of the Star Wars Mythos line.

 – Galactus maquette

       – Star Wars Mythos line

 – Snowtrooper with E-Web Cannon

 – Force Unleashed Shaak Ti premium format

 – an awesome looking World of Warcraft statue, I don’t play the game so I don’t know who it is

 – Commander Shepherd premium format

 – Isaac Clarke premium format

I was getting hungry so I grabbed some food from a stand at a nearby hotel and went back to the room to rest a bit.

Meanwhile mom & cuz had been to Balboa Park in the morning and were out doing some shopping at the Carlsbad Outlets.  Or at least that’s what they said.

 – old school JDM cruising around downtown

 – if you failed to get the Hasbro exclusives at the show or online, this guy had them all

Slightly well rested I spent the next couple hours just walking around and not buying anything.  Mom and cuz had apparently been by to pick up their badges for tomorrow.  Now here’s a bunch of pictures.

 – part of the Avengers plus female Iron Man, I guess that would be Iron Woman

 – Earthbenders

 – mom’s pic of downtown

 – I don’t even know

 – looks to be a character from KOTOR

 – breast cancer awareness Jedi & Padme

 – Jim Kelly (from Enter the Dragon)

 – I always try and take a photo like this every year

 – definitely need to choose carefully

 – Boba Fett helmet for a Celebration VI art project

 – eFX replica Scout Trooper helmet (my favorite of the troopers)

 – Marvel was promoting Iron Man 3 the same way they promoted Iron Man 2, by showing off all the Iron Man suits

 – Supergirls

While I still had a little bit of feeling in my feet, I decided to head over to the WB’s offsite event and check out the Batmobiles they had on display.


Those were really cool to see.  They’re really big and long.  Wonder if he was overcompensating for something?  I hobbled back to the hotel where mom and cuz were sitting back watching TV.  Mom was, cuz was on her phone as usual.  I didn’t want to have to drive and maneuver my way through the throngs of people that were downtown, just to get some food, so we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory that was across the street.  There was a 45 minute wait so we walked around the Gaslamp District and soaked up the Comic-Con atmosphere.

 – pair of sunglasses in a store window


       – general Comic-Con atmosphere

Dinner was good and I was very tired by the time we finished.  We just relaxed in the hotel room until we fell asleep.


Will I get in to see the Firefly panel tomorrow?  Will mom and cuz be able to figure out where to go in the Friday crowds alone?  Tune in soon, same Bat-channel, probably not the same Bat-time.

SDCC/Disneyland Road Trip day 1 Wednesday 7/11/12: The Calm Before the Storm

Welcome to part 1 of my excruciatingly long and terribly detailed report on our recent trip to San Diego & Anaheim.  If you wanted to know every bit of minutiae such as what time did we eat, what did everybody order, how much did it cost, what happened on I-8 mile marker 92, did  I get Mickey to swag battle with me?  Then you will find this to be sorely lacking I’m afraid.  I will attempt to describe our days in an entertaining but informative manner.  One might even say this is “edutainment”.  They would be completely & utterly wrong if they did that though.


Now let me introduce you to our cast:

Me – Michael, your lowly scribe.  Blerd, blaxican, Disney fan, man about town – there are so many ways one could describe me but my favorite is humble.

Mom – pretty self-explanatory this one.  She plans to attend the convention only one of the days in her continuing quest to once a year get info on Monster High dolls.  She’s become quite the Disney fan recently.

Cuz – like OMG this is tots my 14 year old cousin who attended SDCC last year and wanted to go again, plus like Disney & stuff.  I believe her main mission on this trip was to run down the battery of her cellphone as often as possible.  (Fact:  90% of you just read that first sentence in the voice of a teenage girl) #madeupinternetstatistics


I’ll tell you now, the answer is no, Mickey Mouse wouldn’t swag battle me.  Two reasons.  One – he couldn’t handle my mad skillz, yo!  Two – I’m not even sure if that’s a real thing.  I’ve heard the young people mention “swag” before and I like to stay hip and trendy with what the whippersnappers are up to today so I can communicate with them in their own language to stay off my lawn.


The majority of the photos will have been taken with the Sony NEX-5N with a combination of the kit zoom, 30mm macro, and Minolta MD 135 f/3.5 lenses, some are frommy phone, a Samsung Vibrant, that I took with instagram, and some are from my mom’s Canon D10.


As our journey begins, we find our jolly band headed towards sunny, but not as hot as the inside of the oven Arizona where they live, California after a quick stop at the petrol station.  (Due to the amount of BBC America that I watch I sometimes think in Brit)  We listened to some comedy albums on the way down and nothing else of interest happened.  Until we got to Yuma and ate some fantastic Mr. G’s – some terrific Mexican food in Yuma, if you’re in the area.  Bellies full of tortilla and green chile we hit the road again.

Upon arriving in San Diego we checked into our hotel and after going to our room and staring out at the empty fitness center we decided to head to Coronado  instead of continuing the staring.  After driving over the big scary bridge (it’s really high) we made our way to the Hotel del Coronado to check out the grounds and the surrounding beach.

 – view from the bridge

 – it’s like Tatooine, all this sand

The Hotel del Coronado was nice, but not for us.  There are some stores on the grounds with ridiculously expensive goods.  The Mootime Creamery charged $6 for a tiny kids sized portion of ice cream.  Who do they expect to buy ice cream at those kind of prices?  Don’t get me wrong, our ice cream was delicious, just so very expensive.

 – Hotel del Coronado

     – Hotel del Coronado details

After seeing how those pesky 1%ers live, we went to the swim in the ocean.  Or rather get our feet wet up to our ankles at the edge of the tide.  I spent most of my time trying to take photos of some birds who had a hankering for some Cool Ranch Doritos.

 – instagram beach

 – I make this look good

     – beach life

   – plane flying to the naval base

After growing tired of standing around and looking at water, we figured it was time to leave.  I love this restaurant, La Salsa, but we don’t have any out here in Arizona, so every time we go to Comic-Con I try to make it a point to eat there.  Luckily, there was one across the street from the hotel, so that’s where we went.  While we were eating I was noticing the colors change on the hotel as the sunset, so I left to try and get some shots while the light was good.

 – sexy beast of a car I came across on my way to take pictures

   – Hotel del Coronado at sunset

Our crew of misfits once again made their way across the big scary bridge (it’s really, really high) and went back to the Residence Inn to get a good nights sleep.

What would tomorrow bring?  How long would the lines be?  Would mom & cuz be able to entertain themselves without my wit?  Find out in the next installment.