Archive for June, 2011

Vegas – Day 6 – Santa Monica Beach (LA)

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Today we had another slow start, with breakfast consisting of Cinnabon snack bars whilst we decided what to do! Eventually we headed off to the Japanese restaurant Chris had a voucher for, and had some rather yummy Japanese food for an early lunch :) I had beef and chicken teriyaki, Chris had a chicken katsu bowl, and we shared some vegetarian sushi.

Japanese for lunch

Then we went back to the room to collect things for the beach and headed to the seaside. It was rather more blustery than expected, so instead of swimming we walked down the beach to the pier where we had a wander and I bought a pretty new skirt :)

Worcle on the pier

After exploring the pier and eating a churro each, we headed back onto the sand and had a splash in the water. The Worcle ball got up to some mischief (though I might have been helping)…

Buried Worcle!

King of the castle

Then there was games of burying one anothers feet and more splashing in the water before returning to the hotel to wash away the sea and sand.

Smiling in the sunshine

We decided to go to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner, aided by the closest one apparently being very romantic. Sat inside I’m not sure it would have been… but we had a lovely table outside, with a gorgeous view of the harbour :) There was a slightly cold breeze, but the heaters did a good job of helping us ignore it whilst we had some yummy food :)

Sunset, palm trees, cheesecake

BBQ Pulled poke sandwich Fish Tacos

The view really was very pretty as the sun set…

View from Cheesecake Factory

Tall palm trees

Alas, the cheesecake I wanted was still frozen, so I had to steal half of Chris’ and then bring mine back to eat in the hotel whilst we watched some TV on the iPad :) Such a hard life ;)

Vegas – Day 5 – Hollywood (LA)

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Today was a very lazy day due to extremely sore feet and legs after all the standing round yesterday!

We had a very slow start to the day which started with a trip to IHOP for breakfast (mmmmm, cinn-a-stack pancakes!)

Cinn-a-stack Pancakes at IHOP

Then back to the hotel room to write blogs, sort out photos, have showers, and plan the day. We decided to go and take some photos of interesting places… the obvious one being the Hollywood sign :) This resulted in a lot of photos…

Hollywood sign!

Dam near the Hollywood sign

Worcle ball wants to be in the movies.

We stopped by a geocache so we could log the Worcle ball travelling with us :)

Worcle stops by another tiny geocache

It had taken an awfully long time to get across to the Hollywood sign, so we worked our way slowly back to where dinner was via a couple of silly signs…

Worcle wants a giant hot dog

Amusing shop sign

Then to the Stinking Rose for some very tasty dinner :) (After stopping on a random road to get changed because the restaurant has valet parking so we couldn’t change in the carpark as planned!)

Garlicky surf 'n' turf Garlicky pork chop

Then back to the hotel for snoozes once we were suitably stinky! :)

Vegas – Day 4 – Magic Mountain (LA)

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Today was our first visit to an American theme park together :) We were awake far too early, and yet still managed to leave after our “9am at the latest” decision! After stopping for fuel we made it to Six Flags Magic Mountain without too much difficulty, and collected our tickets.

Worcle Ball at Magic Mountain

Then the day started to go downhill somewhat… our first stop was the Orient Express to get us up to Tatsu quickly… but it was closed. Okay, lets do Revolution since we’re next to it, but nope, that was broken down after a few minutes in that queue. Fine, let’s do X2 since that’s the big, exciting one with long queues and it was still very early and most of the school kids who seemed to be swarming the park had sounded terrified by it! RideHopper, the clever little app Chris has, told us that the queue time was 15 minutes. When we joined it looked like about 30-45 minutes but that was fine by us.

We moved slowly… there were some interesting boards to read and some music, then a guy came out and started asking random quiz questions, got us to sing Happy Birthday to people, generally kept the queue entertained. He made a joke about it being 2 hours till we got on the ride… at least, we all thought it a joke at the time and I’m sure he did too… :( As we stood there, we started to see people in event staff tshirts walk past… then noticed the coaster going round with only one person on it! Then we saw someone in a “Scream If You Know The Answer” shirt and suddenly the wait made sense… *sighs*

We did see the host, Duncan James, walk past a couple of times, but I don’t think that made up for the wait very much! Basically, they sent round two coasters of actual park guests, then there was a 10-15 minute wait whilst they did some filming, then they sent the ride round with contestants (1-3 people) and then another 5-10 minutes before the next 2 coasters of park guests. Repeat for many hours! At least as we got close there were steps to sit on… :(

This was a sucky way to start the day. Every one was totally fed up. They weren’t giving us any information, there was no indication of wait times, nothing to console us for the waste of a quarter of our day doing nothing. Most of the queue you couldn’t even see much of anything, so the wait felt even longer!

The ride itself was pretty awesome! Not what we expected even from the few glimpses you get from the queue, and good fun. More curiosity than thrill as Chris put it. It was not, however, worth waiting over two hours for!

We came off angry and grumpy at the waste of our morning and hunted out something to eat and drink. The cheeseburger was okay and started to help improve the day.

We decided to head over towards Apocalypse and Deja Vu as they were both showing reasonable (35 minute) wait times on Chris’ app, but stopped at Ninja on the way as it was right next to us and looked like a short queue. Apparently it’s “The West Coast’s fastest suspended roller coaster”. The wait was slowed down by people trying to put tiny children on the ride who weren’t tall enough, but quick enough to cheer us up a bit. The ride was pretty good, nothing spectacular but it was in the mild rides section ;) We also stopped at Gold Rusher as that was nearby – the parks’ first roller coaster! It was a run away mine train type ride, but not wooden, and quite a fun ride :)

Next up was Apocalypse. Here our grumpy moods returned as what we expected to be a 35 minute wait turned into 90! The queue looked reasonable, until you realised it was barely moving, and twice the length you could see! Seems they only had one coaster going, so it was managing about 22 people every 4 minutes… this doesn’t get many people through a ride! :( It was the only ride we went on which had any real theming to it, though that didn’t really make an appearance until you were almost at the ride, which was a shame. They could have done a better job of keeping us entertained in the queue if they’d interspersed the adverts on the TV screens with some of the videos we saw later on. It was a good coaster, very fast for a wooden one :) But again, not really worth the amount of time stood still!


Next up was Deja Vu, which we’d been watching whilst waiting for Apocalypse. The queue was much longer than the app told us again, but because we had a great view of the coaster the whole time, and the queue was actually moving, it didn’t feel so bad (apparently we were there 70 minutes, but didn’t feel so long!) This ride was awesome! :D Totally out of your seat, a fabulous loop, and then reversed! Beautiful views from the top, and great moments of suspense waiting for the drops. Finally there was some smiling and feeling like the day might improve.

Checking RideHopper again we decided to skip past Riddler and Tatsu which were nearby but had hideous ride times, and headed over to the far corner for some coasters with much shorter queues. Colossus came first which was a lovely short queue (about 20 minutes!) and a lovely old wooden coaster :) A long ride with some lovely drops :) It’s a dual track ride, but as is so often the case, only one side was running :(

The exit to Colossus is right by the entrance to Scream, so clearly that was next up :) Another short queue time of about 25 minutes and we were onto a lovely ride! :) Lots of great loops and turns! I think it claimed 7 inversions, I wasn’t counting! ;)


The next closest was Goliath, we got into the queue then checked the time, looked at the length and re-evaluated since we only had an hour left! It looked like a long queue, whereas others we wanted to go on were down to 5 minutes! So off we went to Revolution instead :) This was the first looping coaster ever built and yet there was quite a lot of ride to go with it! There were some good drops and turns, and an amusing build up to the actual loop! The loop was the kind I like and the ride had you well stuck in your seat! :) There was one rather painful stop thanks to the strange harness, but otherwise all good :)

We went from that one over to Viper which I had spent most of the 2 hour queue for X2 looking longingly at, as it had many awesome looking loops :) A lovely short queue, and then into the back row. The ride was great, lovely loops and a corkscrew :) Unfortunately, the seats could do with some padding! It was very hard and we came off feeling very bashed and bruised! :( Ouchy!


With only 20 minutes before park closing we dashed up to Tatsu and joined a rather long queue… but they let us in, so we knew we were riding it :) This coaster is like Air, in that it is a flying coaster :) Oh, how I love flying coasters :) It was a very smooth ride – longer, taller and faster than Air :) There was a slight problem with the harness slowly but surely imprinting the car keys into my leg (OUCH!) but the ride was awesome :) A great end to the day! :)

We finished the day with a stop at the closest Panda Express for some dinner. It was horribly busy and noisy, but the food was good :)

I feel a need to rant a little more about Magic Mountain… the rides are good. Very good infact! However, the general guest experience really isn’t. I know the filming screwed up our day more than a normal day (we’ve been checking ride times for weeks so we knew what to expect, and this wasn’t it!) They didn’t handle the filming well. They should have just closed the ride and let them film, then let us ride after, rather than having a whole lot of very angry guests stood in a line all morning!

The park lacks any wait time indicators on most of the rides. By the end of the day they finally had boards up outside a couple of the rides with wait times on, which were changed by hand not electronically so no indication of accuracy! There are no “30 minute wait from this point” signs on the queues like at many other parks. You just had no idea how long things might take! The RideHopper app was our only indication, and relies on other people using it (which thankfully at least a few other people were!)

The queues were mostly very dull. There were a few boards of interesting facts on a couple of the rides, but these were infrequent. A number of the queues lacked much shade (quite thankful the day started rather dreary!) The toilets were not kept very clean. The churro machine was broken so they tempted me with the smell but wouldn’t sell me one!

On the bright side, no one tried to steal Chris’ glasses so he got to see on every ride :)

Vegas – Day 3 – Travelling to LA

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

First off, something I forgot to mention yesterday was the “amusing” breaking into a safe! Chris brought his money and cards in a little safe, but we left all our keys in the UK. It took rather less time than one might have hoped to break into the little safe… Using a comb and fingers!

Today we managed to sleep through till gone 5 which was good. Had another morning bath, this time with bubbles :) Oddly, having used the bath the first day, we actually got better toiletries the second day, including some bath stuff, but we’d already bought our own!

We then spent rather too long messing with photos and things on our laptops and the plan for an early start kind of vanished! We had a banana and some tasty pecan crunch bars for breakfast in bed, and finally got moving about 10.

We headed over to the nearest geocache so we could mark the Worcle ball as visited. It was a diddy little cache but found pretty quickly once we were looking in the right place (coordinates seemed to be a bit off, but description helped).


On the way back to the hotel (via a detour) we picked up Cinnabon having both decided that the banana had been a long time ago already. Then we checked out and loaded up the car (once we found it!)

We headed over to Palms to make use of their carpark to sit and eat our Cinnabons and stopped in to check for offers, but there was nothing of interest. On our way back the the freeway I noticed the Gold Coast sign pop up something saying “everyone’s a winner on Wednesdays” and so we had to pull in to check.

The promotion was a quick one, needed 200 points for two chances to win anywhere from $5 to some silly amount. So we sat at the video poker and played. I was rather excited when I turned Chris’ $20 into $250!! Though by the time I stopped there seemed to only be $203 left ;) Then got 15000 points in the bonus draw, which is worth some amount of money (can you tell I’m just doing as I’m told in the casinos?) :)

Winner winner!

Finally we got on our way to LA! Though of course, we had to stop at Primm to ride the big coaster on our way past :) Then we had to stop in Baker for the worlds largest thermometer (which isn’t the giant mercury thermometer you imagine and the sign wasn’t even working, bah!)

World's Largest Thermometer

Here we found some Alien Fresh Jerky! The shop was very silly, full of lots of cool things! I’m currently drinking a very nice black cherry soda from there :D

Alien Fresh Jerky! Alien Parking
Awesome Energy Drinks

Then a stop at Taco Bell for some lunch before the long, long part of the driving. There was a lot of desert to look at, and mountains. Though there was more green than I was expecting. We saw the temperature hit 44°C at one point – “That’s halfway to the boiling point of water… Almost” ;)

It got busier as we approached our final destination but we did eventually get to the hotel where we will be for the next 4 nights. It is conveniently next to an IHOP, although they failed somewhat on dinner tonight by interrupting us still eating main to ask if we wanted dessert, and not refilling my drink! Bah!

Dinner at IHOP - my "healthy" salad!

There is a slight problem with the hotel though… Chris’ magic internets isn’t working so we’re using the hotels free wifi which is slow and not allowing mail sending, so we’re feeling a little disconnected already!

Vegas – Day 2 – A First Exploration

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Today started rather earlier than it should have done! Chris doesn’t do well with crossing time zones, and was wide awake by 3am. By 4am we were both awake and eyeing up the Luv Tub in the room. It took a long time to fill up, even with tap and shower! At one point we thought it was going to cool faster than it would fill! But eventually it was deep enough to get in, and nice and hot for a good morning soak.

Luv Tub at Imperial Palace

We were out and hunting breakfast by 8am and found our way to Hash House a Go Go which is in the Imperial Palace, so easy to get to. Given the name of the place I felt a need for a hash breakfast and Chris and I decided to share a corned beef hash and a napanee hash. Now, these aren’t what you’d expect in England! There are what I would describe as little roast potatos (though I’m guessing they’re fried?) covered with topping, served with two eggs, a buttermilk scone, and a strawberry (oh, and a piece of melon, but neither of us like that!) My eggs weren’t exactly “over medium”, rather more runny than I wanted, so Chris shared half his scramble with me in exchange. The corned beef was not what we were thinking, seemed to be more like shredded gammon… odd but very nice! The napanee was steak which was very tasty too :) The buttermilk scone was very light and there was a pot of freshly made (this morning!) strawberry jam on the table which mostly ended up smothered over our scones… I mean biscuits ;)

Breakfast at Hash House a Go Go

After breakfast we waddled out of the hotel for a bit of an explore. First up was a wander into Flamingo to have a look at the actual flamingos :) We managed to time it for the morning wildlife presentation and got to learn random things like that flamingos live up to 30 years, and 40 to 50 in captivity and that they suffer duck invaders in their habitat! ;) We took lots of photos of the birds, huge fish, turtles, and waterfalls :) Then wandered round to investigate the pool, but there was quickly security in our way.

Flamingos and Ibis Palm trees and water Can you guess where we were?

After failing to see much of their pool we went over to Caesars Palace to investigate their watery offerings. There was no one about to stop us so we walked straight in and had a good look round the many pools. Looks lovely there so we’re planning to go sneak in again with swimming stuff next time ;)

Caesars Palace A merhorse?!

Then we went to Bellagio hunting for a drink but instead found the conservatory filled with pretty flowers and there was more photo taking! We saw someone having wedding photos with the fountains on behind, but haven’t managed to catch the display yet.

Twisty tree and a balloon

At this point I realised my feet were somewhat sore already so we headed back towards our hotel to get the car (valet parking is slow to get car back!) and then I enjoyed sitting down for a bit whilst Chris drove us over to Walmart. We bought various supplies and then had to find another Walmart with an opticians to fix my glasses (lost a pad first thing).

Next up was a quick trip into Terrible’s to check Chris’ points balance, before heading over to Palms. Here I joined my first players club and watched Chris put money into a video poker machine to get points… because points make prizes as we all know! :) Managed to put through enough money to get the maximum newbie prize which also meant an upgraded card so it’s now purple! :)


Then we headed over to Gold Coast where I signed up for another card and played some more video poker for a free buffet “lunch” (it was gone 4 by this point, so not exactly lunch time anymore!) Of course, it being a buffet we did have quite a few platefuls…

"Lunch" Plate 1 "Lunch" Plate 2 "Lunch" Plate 3 "Lunch" Plate 4 "Lunch" Plate 5

After that we managed to get back to the hotel room in a very sleepy state! I managed to write all of this and argue Flickr and Facebook into behaving before I joined Chris for a good sleep! :)

Vegas – Day 1 – Travelling to Las Vegas

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Our journey began at a very sociable 10am with a squish into my Mothers sports car and a drive to Manchester airport. We got through checkin and security quickly and then headed to the BA lounge to partake in free food for lunch.

What does the sign mean?

After a short, easy flight we were at Heathrow and on a hunt for the lounge there. When we finally found one they told us that we need gate B44 (which wasn’t on the board yet) and suggested we head to the lounge there. We finally found a nice quiet lounge and sat down to enjoy a little more free food :)

View of planes from lounge
Planes from the lounge

After a number if packets of mini hobnobs the Worcle ball jumped out of my bag to join in the fun…

"Do I belong in this bowl?"
Do I belong in the bowl?

Then, finally, came the long flight. Although not as long as expected thanks to the wind!
Business class is awesome! There’s so much space and comfy seats, you get fed proper food with proper cutlery! I fear I may never be able to fly in economy again! ;)

We watched Adjustment Bureau first on the media system whilst we got up in the air and then fed “lunch” (at about 5pm!) I had a salad followed by some rather tasty beef and then a chocolate caramel cake with pistachio. Once we’d been fed, we managed to balance the iPad between our lap trays so we could use Chris’ iPad to watch Rat Race followed by a failed attempt at 21 (audio was out of sync) and then Bring it On. Then a couple of Scrubs episodes before they turned the lights back on.

I don’t understand why they were encouraging sleep on a flight which left in the afternoon local time and arrived in the evening local time. That’s just a really long day… Surely having a nap screws up any chance of syncing with local time quickly?

We escaped the airport, found a car (it’s big and blue!) and then headed onto the strip so I could go ooo at the lights which were just turning on.

It’s weird seeing places which I’ve seen in films and on TV. Doesn’t quite feel real even now sitting on the hotel bed able to see Ceasers Palace out the window!

We drove all the way down and then back to Imperial Palace which is our first hotel of the holiday. Valet parking was awkward having come in from the back, and there were quite a few people waiting to checkin, but we got there eventually. Plus, we got a free room upgrade! We have a huge room, or should I say rooms? There’s a lounge area with bar which you walk into, then double doors through to the bedroom with a huge bed and a funky luv tub bath!! It’s awesome!
Plus, we’re on the 18th floor with a strip view! It was cool seeing the neon from our balconies last night :)

View of the strip from our first room View of the strip from our first room
View from our balconies

Once we were checked in, bags in room, and before I totally collapsed, we went down the strip a little to a Chipotle for some dinner. A very tasty chicken burrito later and my stomach was quite satisfied that it was time for bed and so it was back to the room and time for some sleep!

Hanging With Friends – A Rant

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Apparently my return to blogging is going to begin with a rant. A rant about Apple and about developers releasing unfinished products. Particularly “respected” developers, or at least, a company you would expect to have a QA process.

I was quite excited yesterday when on my Facebook stream a post appeared from Words With Friends announcing their new game. I’ll admit to having spent many hours playing WWF, and not just so I could chat to my now partner. It’s a well written version of Scrabble which has become an expected app on everyone’s iOS device.

Obviously this meant I was expecting a lot from their new game. Something fun, addictive, skill based, and easy to play. I won’t deny that it ticks some of those boxes, but I still have plenty to rant about.

First up, the app knew I had WWF installed… How? This seems like something they shouldn’t know… Or perhaps I’d just rather I was the only one who knew how many games I have installed? So it told me to log in to Facebook to use the same account, fair enough. It actually used the crazy FB app switching single sign on nonsense which I’ve been avoiding in my code because it looks so strange to users.

I get back into the app and I’m welcomed by the beginnings of a tutorial… It said something about avatars but I have no idea what as at that point the app crashed!
How exactly did this get past a review team? Any review team? Any testing?
Also, it wasn’t just me. Moments later Chris installed and it did exactly the same for him!

So off I go to settings to find an avatar since the tutorial didn’t reappear when I reopened the app. What do I see here but a button marked “Coming Soon”! Now, this is a big no no in the Apple world. We have had an app rejected for a button which said coming soon (and ours was there so that Game Center features were ready as soon as it came to iPad, not something we hadn’t written yet!) There’s a coin store feature coming soon, yet we seem to be collecting coins in game, and have no idea why or what for! It’s odd! It’s also an instant reject for most developers!


Then there’s the fact that the tutorial wasn’t quite working. It popped up help about things on my third time doing that action, and there are some things I still don’t understand which I was expecting it to explain.

It seems to get confused when you’re playing multiple people sometimes and I’ve seen it have all the wrong names and words, and not had anything to show whilst replaying guesses. Also, if you tap back during the animation at the end of your turn, it keeps playing the sounds, and then sometimes shows the advert over whatever screen your on… And sometimes it doesn’t! The animations aren’t all that smooth and you have to wait for them to finish before you can play your turn.

Another gripe is the theming. I understand the reuse of the letter tiles even though they look a little odd. I like the use of balloons rather than hanging for this re-imagining of the traditional hangman game. What I just don’t get is why we’re dropping the loser into a pit of lava? If this is a cutesy alternative to hanging someone, why do they meet a gruesome end? And they look horrified about it too, the poor little avatars! Couldn’t we be floating over a paddling pool? A bucket of gunge? Something more child friendly! It’s just unpleasant for no good reason!


I also have slight problems with the lack of skill… It’s mostly a game of luck, you guess right, all goes well, you don’t, you fail. There’s very little thought required, which is just so different to their other game, scrabble or chess.

Not only have Apple approved an app which crashes, has obvious bugs, and a big Coming Soon button, they’re promoting it! It’s the Game of the Week! Seriously? How does something this buggy get that honour? It is rather disheartening for us when our games have yet to get any good featuring and we know they’re great!

All that said, I do seem to still be playing the game. It’s quick to play a turn and when I’m not fighting against the interface it has some cuteness. Though I’ll be hoping for an update soon!

If you’d like to play Hanging With Friends or WWF with me, my username is ‘StarlitSkies’.

What game has failed to meet your expectations? How do you feel when an application crashes? Do you persevere if the user interface is clunky?