Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category.

Cedar Point Halloweekends vs Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

These days my corporeal form exists closer to Sandusky, Ohio than to Orlando, Florida – meaning that Cedar Point’s Halloweekends is a more drivable distance than Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights. Being a loyal HHN fan I was skeptical of Halloweekends, but this post gave me cause to give it a try.

I will bottom-line this as a Halloween connoisseur: Halloweekends at Cedar Point is a C+ compared to Halloween Horror Nights’ A+.

If you want the socks blasted off your feet by the ultimate Halloween experience, then HHN is where you must go. But if you’d rather have some decent Halloween flavor to complement an array of premium roller coasters, then Cedar Point should be your destination. Let me try to summarize in digestible Internet morsels:

Scare Zones: Cedar Point clearly put effort into their scare zones, but lacked the artistry you see at HHN. In Orlando a scare zone has a distinct, mesmerizing atmospheric presence, whereas Halloweekends feels more like a collection of fog machines, people in masks shouting at you, and green lights in your eyes. I will say that I liked Cedar Point’s concept of “extended” outdoor scare zones: lengthy paths that followed the theme of the zone.

Haunted Houses: you know when a local community group – a high school organization, a church, etc – puts together a surprisingly good haunted house? That’s about the level of a Cedar Point haunted house. Meanwhile an HHN haunted house is, well, a masterpiece. Design, props, effects, dialog, costumes, and “scare factor” are all at the highest level in Universal Studios.

Beer: this is a minor point, but HHN is not shy about selling you a beer. Vendors are everywhere, even in haunted house lines, to grant you a little buzz to accompany your experience. Cedar Point, being more family/youth-friendly, keeps alcohol consumption mostly out of sight.

Crowds: Cedar Point wins here, though peak times at both parks will see you standing in long lines. With HHN you really want to go on an off-night to make sure you have time to get to everything, whereas with Cedar Point you could probably go through all the Halloween content even on a Saturday night.

All things considered, Cedar Point’s Halloweekends is a solid, enjoyable experience. They had lots of Halloween content for children that would be ideal for families – something that HHN doesn’t really offer. My point is that you simply cannot put Halloweekends in the same category as Halloween Horror Nights. HHN is its own category – an elite tier that I suspect it shares with no one else.

And no, I’m not being paid by Universal Studios for writing this blog post, but I would not refuse an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando hint hint.

My favorite technology of the aughts

The 2000s have been the first decade where I’ve actually had some serious purchasing power. While I rarely splurge, I have managed to accumulate some excellent technology over the past ten years. Here are my favorites from each year:

2009… Synology DS209j NAS (two 640 GB drives in RAID1)

Like the DreamHost of file servers, this network attached storage (NAS) device provides an intuitive, clean interface to most of the things you’d want to do with a Linux file server. No need to install software, tweak config files, or make sure that services start on boot – the Synology pretty much Just Works. I bought the DS209j and (separately) two 640 GB drives for a reasonable total of $360. I have a similar model that I use on the job and absolutely love it for that purpose.

2008… Apple MacBook Pro (15″ screen, 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM)

I have never been happier with any computer. Of course I’ve never spent more on any computer… this one cost me a grand total of $2,150. I later upgraded to 4 GB of RAM for a trivial sum. In terms of my computing history, I ran Windows all the way through my undergrad, then switched to Linux for the next seven or so years. Now that I’m using OS X, I have all the polish of an Apple product, with the stability and hackability of a UNIX system.

2007… Panasonic TH-50PX77U (50″ plasma, 720p)

I researched this purchase exhaustively in the AVS Forums and wound up with a good deal on an awesome television – $1,900 including shipping. Of course, these days I could get a 1080p set for less, but let’s not think about that. I expect this plasma to act as my primary television for years to come.

2006… Nintendo DS Lite

As you can see from Part I and Part II of my Nintendo DS Roundup series, I have logged many hours on this slick handheld. I love the dual screens, even for games that have no touchscreen functionality at all. The battery life is awesome, the suspend/hibernate mode works flawlessly every time I close and re-open the clamshell, and the two speakers do actually provide a decent audio experience. It’s difficult to imagine a better portable gaming system than this.

2005… PlayStation 2 (slimline)

Yes, I was certainly a latecomer to the PS2. The positive of this was that I could sift through the huge library of existing games to pull out the gems:

I didn’t pour my soul into this system like I did with the Gamecube, but the PS2 provided a reliable, quality console experience while also serving as a DVD player for my second television.

2004… Game Boy Advance SP

This little clamshell was a fitting ancestor to the DS. A few of my favorite games for the system:

  • Mario Golf
  • Advance Wars
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

2003… TBD

2002… Nintendo Gamecube

I doubt that I will ever get more mileage out of a gaming system than I did with the Gamecube. Looking back at my reviews, I see a slew of great games that held me captive:

  • Super Smash Bros Melee
  • Eternal Darkness
  • Metroid Prime
  • Super Mario Sunshine
  • Gladius
  • Resident Evil
  • Skies of Arcadia Legends
  • The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker
  • XIII
  • Beyond Good & Evil
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Hell, I even wrote a research paper on the Gamecube’s CPU for a computer architecture class in grad school. The wireless wavebird controllers were a brilliant innovation – especially for a cat owner. The Gamecube was there for me at a point in my life when I needed a lot of distance from certain personal matters; this is technology that has special meaning.

2001… Toyota Camry

Although I bought the car used in 2002, the Camry itself is a 2001 model. With only 24,000 miles on the odometer, I felt that the total cost of $15,200 was a great deal; my interest rate was pretty good, but let’s not think about the extra I paid to the bank. Anyway, this car is never going to get me any chicks, but it does work flawlessly, doesn’t leave me stranded, and has been very reasonable in terms of maintenance costs. I’m not a car guy, but when a machine with that many moving parts functions so reliably, you know you’re dealing with quality engineering.

2000… TBD

You might have noticed that there are no cell phones on here; having owned a Palm Pilot, Treo 650, and Centro, I’ve felt underwhelmed in that department. However, I am hoping that the Droid will find a home on my list for the next decade…


My brother wrote about a great web app called AutoMotivator that allows you to easily create your own inspirational posters. This gave me an opportunity to capture a sentiment very dear to my heart:

Manflesh: It’s what’s for dinner.

One of my favorite scenes from LOTR is when one of the Uruk-hai sniffs the air and snarls, “Manflesh!” I imagine this poster would have been often seen pinned up around Uruk-hai encampments.