Saturday, December 13, 2008

A special Disneyland Video just for me

Here is a link to a special video of a special celebration just for me. Top secret though so I can't tell you how I managed this.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's been a long time

I am still alive. There just hasn't been much going on since I retired in Sept of 2007. I still help out at the comic book store and Life Alert, but most of the time I am just doing whatever I want.

Going to Disneyland is still a top priority especially at this time of year. I love Disneyland at Christmas.

Still collecting Disney and Harry Potter merchandise.

I will try to find something of interest that I can post stuff about more often.

Thanks for looking.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Since Sept 2005

A lot has happened and it's only recently that I realized I had not posted here in ages.

By January of 2006 I had gone blind in my left eye, and lost about 70% sight in my Right Eye. Once again thanks to the efforts and kindness of Miri Shepher I was able to get into Medi Cal and have cataract removal done. The enrollment and acceptance by Medicare took a long time and then the approval for the Left Eye Surgery took some time, so the first surgery was done September 20, 2006 and went perfect. No pain, and new lenses were inserted and work perfect. I now have 20/30 vision in my left eye. The Right eye was done on December 23, 2206 (what a great Christmas Present) and I now have 20/40 in that eye. I no longer have to wear glasses and only use reading glasses to read as artificial lenses do not "auto-focus" so close up is blurry unless I wear reading glasses. I can see far away just fine and at the movies I can see the screen without the use of any type of glasses now. So I am very happy and again thank the kindness of Miri Shepher for helping me through this. I go into Life Alert once a week to see things and let Miri and Issac know how I am doing.

I have been to Disneyland many times now during the week and also on Sundays to meet with the Mice Chat group. My sister has her own blog now and she just posted a report on the 2nd year anniversary we had last month and about 300 people showed up, which was really something. Disneyland sent 8 people from the photo store to take our picture in front of the Castle, which was tarped and boarded off due to a repaint, but it still came out nice. I wish I knew hot to link to her blog, but I do know it's named My Musings.

That's about it for now. I am enjoying the rest and ease of Retirement. It's not not easy living on Social Security, but I am managing to do pretty good. I have time to play around on the computer, make more paper models, and still manage to collect Harry Potter and Disney stuff.

Monday, September 05, 2005

My Last Day at Work and Unversal Studio Hollywood visit

On August 31st, 2005, I retired from the working world. My last day at work I brought my camera and took some pictures. Here is a look at Life Alert on my last day.

Here is the main office area right behind my desk with everybody hard at work, while I was allowed to do nothing that day.

The desk on the left is where I used to sit. Next to me is a guy named Rami that I have known since I started my "Temporary Job" at Life Alert 20 years ago.

This is the cubicle to my right (a wall of windows is to my left, yes I had a window seat) and the lady on the right is the office supervisor and the lady on the left is in training.

This is Russ. He is a big Disneyland and Disney fan. He is also our Tech Support person who keeps everything in the office running smoothly. He handles all telephones, computers, servers and anything else that our office depends on daily in order to stay up and running.

Rus is also the one who custom built my home compter and has updated it for me several times over that last 10 or so years. Thanks Russ, you are the best.

Life Alert is an Emergency Response System for the elderly and handicapped. It became famous several years ago with the add slogan, "Help I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up". When a subscriber to Life Alert needs assistance of any kind, they simply push a pendant and the signal comes into our Dispatch Center, shown here. The Response Personel in this center then have 2-way vocal communication without the customer having to get to, or use, the telephone. All communications between Life Alert and the subscriber are done through the Life Alert's Main system control box that sits anywhere the customer wishes to place it. The system is entirely wireless and is very simple to install by the subscriber.

This is another view of Dispatch showing a lady named Lisa who is the Manager of Dispatch at her Bridge Station so she can see everything going on in the room.

Life Alert is all about saving lives. They have around 50,000 active subscribers and they save over 1,000 lives on average every two weeks.

This is my Retirement Cake. Everybody at Life Alert knows of my love of all things Disney so they had this cake made for me. I have the decorations at home, and what no one knew, including me until I got them home and was running water on them to clean up the icing, Minnie's Motorcycle makes starting up and idling noises when you press a button on the gas tank of the cycle. Cool.

This is me on the left and the President and CEO of Life Alert, Isaac Shepher. Isaac has been a wonderful boss for the last 20 years and I respect and admire what he has done with the company in that time.

Below is Miri Shepher, the Vice-President and Office Manager of Life Alert. Miri has been very supportive of me and has treated me like a member of her family. She was the person who made sure that my teeth were taken care of. She helped me purchase my first computer and so many other things. I will miss all these people very much, but Isaac and Miri are very special and I will miss them both very much.
So that was a peek at the place that has been "home" during the week for the last 20 years.


Two days later I was at Universal Hollywood for my first week day visit in a long, long time. Below is a selection of pictures I took on September 2nd, 2005, including some shots of the newly opened War Of The Worlds set that the tram drives through near the end of the tour. I had the entire back row of the third tram car to myself so I could slid across the seats to get pictures from both the left and right side of the tour.

This is a shot of the Back Lot New York Street Set from the side as it was being used and we could not drive down the street.

This is a new (at least to me it was) of a small dinosaur on top of one of the Jurassic Park vehicles in the Greenery Section of the tour. It doesn't move or anything, just makes for a cool picture.

The next series of pictures shows the "Flood Sequence" located in the "Old Mexico" area of the backlot tour.

Next is a couple of shots I got in the King Kong portion of the ride. They didn't come out all that good but I thought you might like to see them.

This next set is of the "Earthquake" sequence of the Tram ride.

Here is a shot of the Shark from Jaws. Got wet on this one.

The rest of the pictures are of the War Of The Worlds plane crash set. They have added smoke, sound and movement to this area and it really looks like the real thing. There is one shot here (at the end) where I attempted to get a panoramic shot of the crashed jetliner but I was in an awkward position and had to slightly turn as I moved the camera from left to right and so the edges don't quite line up, but you get the idea. This is now the highlight of the Universal Hollywood Back Lot Tram Tour. They drive very slowly through here and stop in the middle so you can get lots of pictures.

The fans blades in this jet engine are still spinning, very slowly.

Well, that is about it. I got many more shots, but the blog will only hold so many pictures before it gets cranky. Hopefully you can click on the panorama to bring up a bigger version, as you can on any of the pictures posted here. Thanks for looking and please make some comments so I know you are looking at my blog.

Disneyland is next.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Trip Report Part 5

The Disneyland portion of my vacation was over, I was home and had keys and 5 more days (counting the weekend) of vacation left. Wednesday I had already set aside as a "rest" day. I did nothing but sleep or watch TV all day long. It was wonderful after all the activity I had been through at Disneyland for three non-stop days.

Thursday was to be special, and busy, for several reasons. First was a very special invitation to a very special museum that not everybody knows about. I didn't. A new employee at the company I work for turned out to be a big Harry Potter fan. And, his wife works at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. And the studio has a museum that has costumes and props from several TV shows produced by WB. And recently they added a new display to the second floor of the museum. A display of costumes, props and other things from all four of the Harry Potter movies. So I made a call on Thursday morning to set up a time that I could be there to meet with Mrs. Wilson and take the tour of the Harry Potter display. I had to take a bus that only runs once an hour so we set a time for two buses in case I missed the first one. I didn't. Showed up right on time and was met at the Gate given a pass and taken to the museum. Mrs. Wilson could not stay as she was in the middle of things in the video department, so I was on my own to explore the Harry Potter display for as long as I wished. The only unfortunate thing is that the museum does not allow any photos to be taken. The guards at the front desk take all cameras and cell phones upon entry. So no pictures for this update. Sorry, but I had to obey the rules.

It was wonderful. I spend over an hour looking at all the large displays of set pieces like the Dursley Fireplace with all of the Hogwart's Invitations flying out the opening; Harry's Cupboard Under The Stairs where he lived in the first movie; Hermonie Granger's wax figures of her lying frozen in the hospital bed holding the mirror that she looked into and saw the Basalisk from the second movie, plus costumes of Lockhart, Lupin, Mr. & Mrs. Weasly, Harry Ron and Hermoine's outfits that they wore in Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid's outfit (which is huge), Professor Dumbledore's and Lucious Malfoy (these two were the most detailed and elaborate costumes of all). They also had Harry and Diggory's Quiditch costumes. Lots of small things like all the different candies in the movie boxes and wrappers, bottles of differetn wizarding drinks from The Leacky Cauldron, wands, time turner and The Mauraders Map all in glass gasses. A large Dementor Maquette was hanging in a back corner, and Lord Voldemort's black robes and hood from the scene where he was drinking the Unicorn's blood and attacked Harry in the Forbidden Forest. Also the Maquettes for the giant Black Dog (that was really Sirius Black) and other creatures seen in the movies. The clock from The Burrow that showed where all the Weasley's are was also on display. Near the center of the room, was the Sorting Hat sitting on the Sorting Stool. If you wished, you could sit on the stool and a host would hold the hat over your head, and it speaks and "sorts" you into one of the four Houses of Hogwarts. I was sorted into Slytherin without any hesitation. I guess my Dark Side was leaking through that day. You can't retake the sorting hat either as that wouldn't be fair. So I have to live with it.

To say that this experience was like a dream come true, is correct. This is an amazing display if you are a Harry Potter Fan. I am and this was as close to the real thing as you can get. The Warners Studio VIP Tour has a link from the Main Page of the Warner home page. The VIP tour inludes the museum in the tour which lasts about 4 hours and is very personal as only about 25 people or less go on each tour. I think you can get tickets or make reservations from the link.

Then, after that I took the bus back to Univeral and went up to City Walk for a short trip through City Walk. Then down the hill and over to Ventrura and Sepulveda to meet with a close friend, Danny (who just happens to be JD's Uncle) so we could go to the Pacific Theater located in the Gallaria Mall to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" which we both thoroughly enjoyed very much. A twisted movie from Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, it follows the movie much more closely than the Gene Wiler version did. It was certainly different and very good. I recommend it very highly.

Friday I spent the day with another frined, Richard, as we drove around to the different stores looking for toys and action figures and I was getting some more supplies for food and stuff. It was very hot, and I was very tired when I finally got back home that afternoon.

Saturday was another scheduled day. I sometime work at a book store owned by a friend and fill in on Saturday's for him when he has a Volley Ball Tournament or is going on vacation. So Saturday I worked at the store all day while he and his wife are on vacation. It was nice to see the customes that came in as I haven't been there in ahwile. It is also a non stress job so after the week I had, it was nice to sit and talk to people and sell some things for the store.

Sunday was another day of rest. By this time I was just too tired to do much on anything. So I relaxed all day in front of the TV or slept. Work was to start again the next day. And, at this poing in time there was only one week to go before I gave my termination notice on Monday August 1st, which as of this update is tomorrow.

Yep! I am leaving Life Alert after some 20 odd years of employment. I have worked for well over 50 years now, am 63 years of age and time for early retierment. So at the end of August I will be free from work. The pay isn't great but I also have a small pension fund from Transamerica where I worked for 20 years. Plus I will at the bookstore more often helping out there. Every littel bit helps. I have given this a lot of thought, and some cuts in spending will have to be made, but nothing I can't live without.

So that is my trip report, and a hint about what's coming next. I will update often to let you know what's going on, so be sure to check back a couple of times a week. Thanks for all the support and comments and e-mails I have received. I will talking to you soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Disneyland Trip Report 4

Well, after three days of sun and fun at Disneyland, I was ready to come home. This is the way I planned my fifth day: stay in bed as long as I could; get up, dress, pack and leave my luggage at the storage area off the lobby of the Park Vue Inn; take a local OC transit bus about 1 mile South of Disneyland, go into the Target store and buy Harry Potter book 6 to read on the way home; go back to the Park Vue Inn, get my luggage and take the MTA bus 460 home, enjoying some music and reading The Half Blood Prince.

Needless to say, things don't always go as planned.

First, I have to mention something that happened on Sunday that had a lot to do with the way things started off on Monday. When my sister, Irene, and I went into Disneyland I stopped at the ATM just inside to get some money. I had paid for the Hotel Room on check in, and knew what was left. So imagine my shock when the ATM said I had insuffient funds. I thought, oh well I made some mistake it subtraction somewhere along the line, I will fix it when I get home. But later in the afternoon after we had finished lunch and Irene went back into the Park, I tried to take a nap, but couldn't stop thinking about that ATM thing. So I got up and called the 800 number to my bank. First shock: the hotel had charged my card twice. That was not in the plan.

I talked to a live bank person and she confirmed that two charges had been made from the Park Vue Inn Saturday. One in the morining, which was just supposed to be a verification of funds, had been charged, and then again when I checked in and paid for the room, it was charged again. I called the front desk and finally spoke to the manager on duty. He called me back about 20 minutes later and said that yes, in fact two mistakes had been made. One the verification went through as a charge, and to further complicate things, the charges where overcharged by $42. He tried to fix it. He couldn't. I called the bank - I couldn't. I went to the front desk and called back with the manager. No luck. They are very fast to take money out of your account, but can't reverse charges until the "computer" does this at sometime the next morning after midnight. They appoligized and told me that the credits should appear after 6am Tuesday morning. That made me feel a little better, so I went back to the Park, met up with Irene and you can read about that in Part 3.

So, Tuesday Morning, at a little after 6am I am up calling the bank again to see if there is any money in the account. First thing in my plan to go wrong - I am not sleeping in late. Because of the double overcharging, the account on Monday had been overdrawn by $75. Now, when the balance came up there was $540 in the account. So not only had the first charge been erased, so had the second charge. I went back to bed. Nothing else would be done until either later in the day, or after midnight again. I managed to get a couple of hours sleep, but then got up, packed and put things in the suit case and in my pockets and went to the front desk to check out. The clerk on duty checked my file and informed me I was "Good To Go".

So I put my luggage in the back room and went across the street to catch the bus to Target. Got to Target and expected to see several stands with the HP book on them, but could find nothing. I found one rack, and it was empty. I asked. They had sold out Sunday. Things are going bad. They are about to get even worse. I went back, got the luggage and went back over to catch the 10am bus back to LA. It never showed up. The 10:30 bus came and I got on, and got my seat in the back, and hooked up for music and dozed off and on all the way into LA which took about 2 hours. Finally arrive at 7th and Figoura, got off to catch the Red Line back to the valley, and found most of the street blocked off for some KISS FM Street Fair. Why me?

I finally made it across to the subway and then had about a 5 minuet wait. Got off the subway at Universal and went up to catch a 750 Rapid Bus down Ventura to Van Nuys Blvd. Walked the three blocks to Borders and they had tons of the new HP book. Got the book, walked back to Van Nuys and waited for the 761 Rapid Bus which showed up a few minutes later. I was thinking how nice it was going to be to get in the Apartment, get a cold drink, turn on the air conditioning and settle down to start reading the new book. How little did I know that something else was wating in the wings to spoil this last day.

I was walking up the street, heavy backback on and dragging my rolling suitcase along behind me. It was hot. Over 100 degrees (we had been lucky out in Anaheim all the days I was there it was only in the 90's) and was really dragging myself. The building was in site. I reached into my pocket for the keys to the building and apartement. Well, guess what? ..... You are right. NO KEYS!!!! I had left them on the bed at the hotel, the one way out in Anaheim! Stupid! I never leave without checking my pocket for my keys. Never. Except this once. When I got to the building I buzzed #4 and wonder of wonders they buzzed the front gate open. Never even came out to see who it was, just buzzed me in. I was too hot and tired to care. I climbed the stairs and then realized that Bill, the building handy man, the one who has the extra keys, was not home. I sat on the balcony in what shade I could. It was hot. Did I mention that? It was very, very hot. The sun beats down on that balcony. Bakes it. I heard bells.

It was a Mexican Street Vender who has a push cart filled with popsicles and other cold stuff. Cheap. I walked down the stairs, went to the front gate and opened and then proped it open with a planter. I waited and finally he came down my way. I got two. A strawberry and a grape. Cold popsicles. Went back up, settled in and started to read Harry Potter. Not quite the way I had imagined it.

But at least I had something cold and wet to eat. 1 1/2 hours later Bill came home. I got an extra set of keys, made it into my apartment and called the hotel. They said the would see if any keys had been turned into lost and found or housekeeping. They would call back within 20 mintues. I fell asleep. They never called back. The next day, I called again. This time the manager was there. I told him what had happened and he took care of it. They found the key within 5 minutes under the bed. I missed them and the maid missed them. They mailed them back. I checked the bank account. The second charge from the hotel was back. But it was still over by $42.00. Two days later I got a survey from the On Line service that I had booked through. I told them everything, including the overcharge that was stil not taken care of. The next day the $42 was credited back to my account.

All is well in Neverland again.

I have my keys to the Kingdom. I have money to spend on the rest of my vacation.

What did I do on the remaining 5 days? How about a visit to a Harry Potter Museum? A trip to Universal City Walk? A visit to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a close friend. A day spent with another friend running all over the valley. A day working at a comic book store. And finally, a day to do nothing.

Don't miss Part 5. Magic, Toys, Movies and Good Friends await. Coming soon!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Disneyland Trip Report, Part 3

Monday, July 18th. It was exactly 50 years ago this day that Disneyland opened its gates to the General Public. As a Birthday gift to me, my birthday is today, my parents had planned a road trip to the Park that day. So, since my sister and I had been there on that opening day, we planned this day to re-enter together and spend the day just enjoying the Park.

Before going into the Park though, my sister joined myself and my friends from South Carolina for a "Birthday Breakfast" at I-Hop next to the hotel. Gail brought me a nice coffee cup with the state map of S. Carolina and information about the state printed on the cup, and a medallian with the state seal and flower and other things stamped on it. JD drew me an original picture in colored pencil of the Disney and Squaresoft comupter game, Kingdom Hears. He did it all freehand and picked out the matt and frame. You can bet this is going on the wall near my own Kingdom Heart Diorama. He drew it all freehand, and it's very good. Patrick paid for our breakfast and then they had to leave as the shuttle to the airport showed up. Lots of goodby hugs all around, and then they were off and so my sister and I headed on over to the Park for our day at Disneyland.

Now this was the third day in the Park for me and Irene had been there not too long ago, so we did not have to rush all over the place to see everything. But we did go on Space Mountain, we saw Asimo the robot from Honda that is on display at Innoventions. I took a bunch of pictures and here are a few:

Here is Asimo arriving in his Shipping Crate. He walks out of the crate and accros the stage.

ASIMO stands for Advanced Step In Motion.

Here is Asimo as he walks across the stage:

And here he is climbing stairs, a very difficult task for a Robt. Asimo is the only free walking robot that can both climb and descent stairs.

His show in Innoventions, in Tomorrowland, is given every hour on the hour.

After seeing Asimo, we left Innoventions and I saw the Rocket Ship ahead of us on the exit ramp and thought it would make for a nice picture:

This is a smaller version of the 80 foot tall TWA Rocket to the Moon that used to stand in front of the attraction building that you can see in the background. Now it is a misster for a beverage stand below it. The old Rocket To The Moon building is now a Pizza Place.

We also went on the Matterhorn and several other rides while we sort of wandered around and had a great day. At one point my sister, Irene, took this picture of me by the Nemo Wall that is around the submarine lagoon ride which is being redone to a Finding Nemo Them. I guess it's called "Bruce, meet Bruce" as the shark in the movie is also named Bruce.

We then headed to Fantasyland and I got the following pictures of the Sleeping Beauty Castle all decked out for the 50th, plus some shots around the Snow White Grotto. All this area has really been spruced up for the 50th anniversary.

The Castle has been repainted using shading in the coloring of the "bricks" and also has gold bunting drapped around the turrets. Also all the turret tops have been "crowned" with gold plated princess crowns, each crown represented a 10 year span of events at Disneyland.

You can see the turrets better in these photos.

The Bridge Across the Castle Moat has also been re-painted.

Here is a view of the new 50th medallian above the entrance.

Across from the Castle on the right side, is Snow Whites Grotto. The wishing well has been repainted, the grate work inside has been replaced with a new grill decorated with 24 carate gold leaves and finally, the grotto itself has been cleaned and repaired so that it looks brand new.

The Wishing Well.

The inside of the wishing well has been replaced with an all new Grill. All the money that is thrown into the well is collected twice a year and donated to Children's Charitties.

The Grotto has been scrubbed clean and looks like new.

Inside Fantasyland I caught a glimpse of the Evil Queen looking down on the crowds of people in "her" courtyard. She doesn't look happy.
After Fantasyland we headed over to Adventureland and rode Indy, then over to Haunted Mansion but it was not working. We never did back to ride that. We have been on it many times so it was not that big a deal.

We then went over to DCA and I took some pictures of The Tower Of Terror after we rode it.

After this we rode the California Screamin' Roller Coaster, then left DCA and the Park for a take out lunch from McDonalds which is right across the street. We went back to my Hotel Room to eat and rest. Irene went back into the Park as I was really tired. I went over a couple of hours later and we met at the Train Station and went on some more rides and shows. We were basically killing time until the fireworks. We saw the afternoon Parade. Here are some pictures of the 50th Annivsary Parade.

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are in the first float.

The second float is Beauty and The Beast

The third float is Pinnochio

The Little Mermaid is the fourth float.

Ursula follows as the fifth float.

The Mad Tea Party, from Alice in Wonderland is next.

The Lion King is next.

The final float is all the Princesses, Princes and Mickey and Minnie as King and Queen. Goofy, Donald and Chip & Dale are also around in court garb.
After the Parade we found a place to sit and wait for the 9:30pm Fireworks. It was over to the side in Carnation Plaza next to the Castle. It was a strange viewing area but we had real seats to sit in. After the fireworks we made our way to the Fantasmic viewing area, found a place next to the Center Light tower and had a 1/2 or so wait until the 10pm show. It went off without a hitch. After that, we were both kind of worn out, so it was time to head back out and over to the motel were Irene had parked the car. We said our goodbyes and I went in to bed. A very tiring 3 days, but it wasn't over yet. I had one more day to go, and that one turned out to be the worst day of the lot.

Next: Trip Report #4 will be the final day, and my trip home and what happened when I got there.