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Slackin' off...
digimind
thwack
Wow, I don't think I've even written about the Toronto trip yet. I'm such a slacker.

Well the trip was great overall, but my story will start with a negative aspect, and that would be that I didn't pack early enough. Who doesn't have that problem though, right? :) It came to be 10pm, 11, 12am... I finally started packing and then realized that the only dress shirt I have with a neck that fits me is the brand new one I still haven't opened. Of course, it took 20 minutes to open the darn thing with all those needles and pieces of plastic they put all over, and then I found that it had really nasty creases from being folded. Well darn it, I don't have an iron, and it was after 10pm so I couldn't use the laundry room. So what did I do? I washed it by hand in the sink. Yup. Well it got the big creases out, but then it got a whole bunch of smaller wrinkles as all clothes do when they get washed. I had to hang the thing on a bar for the night to dry... and by the time I woke up 3½ hours later it was mostly dry. I folded it carefully and packed it in my suitcase, hoping that the pressure of the other clothes would flatten it out.

Amazingly, I didn't run late leaving my apartment. I had set specific time to meet my neighbors Matt and Theresa who also live in the complex and were going to carpool with me to RIT. We timed it perfectly and arrived at my car with our luggage at exactly the same time. :)

I was kinda concerned about who I would sit with on the bus... Every year people seem to arrange this ahead of time and I end up sitting with whoever. Well fortunately as I was leaving the bus after staking out a seat and leaving my bag there, Sara asked if she could sit with me. Cool. :)

On the ride there, we watched a tape of the Muppets and Cirque du Soleil, which were quite entertaining. I also let Ron use my powered speakers I brought for my discman to play some good tunes. At that point I realized the first thing I had forgotten... headphones for myself. I brought the discman, speakers, CD's, batteries for the discman, batteries for the speakers, but forgot headphones!

When we arrived in Toronto the city had a thick fog sitting about 200 feet above the ground... so several of the tall buildings disappeared into it, including the CN tower. At one point we had stopped at a light with a good view of the tower, so I got my camera out, and at that point I realized the next thing I had forgotten. I brought plenty of film for my camera, but neglected to check the battery. It was replaced not too long ago so I thought it would be fine. :-/ It uses a special camera-sized 3V battery too, so I couldn't use the AA's I had plenty of. So much for pictures on this trip.

We got to Casa Loma and wandered around there for 2 hours. Pretty cool place. I want the room with the grand piano in it. And the organ. :) I looked in the gift shop for camera batteries but they didn't have any... just your normal AA's and stuff. We got an awesome group photo in the conservatory with like 8 different cameras so one of them was bound to be good... I can't wait to see it.

We got to the Delta Chelsea hotel and.... damn it's a big hotel! It's not only tall, but wide on the ground too. It has a freaking bus loop tunnel for dropping off large groups, like us. This is in the middle of the city! There were something like 87 elevators. Well ok, maybe only 10 or 12. :) But they all went to different places. Some only went to floors 1-3, 5-6, and 27. Others only went to 7-23 and 28-whatever.... etc. Kinda confusing, but it's all they can do when the building is more complex than just a single tower.

Jeremy and I got our key and went up to our room on the 6th floor. I unpacked my shirt to see how it was doing... Better, but still quite ratty-looking. But lo and behold, guess what I found in the hotel room closet... an iron! :) So I whipped out the ironing board... which didn't have nearly enough padding so I had to use a towel... and made my shirt all nice and spiffy-looking. Jeremy and Sara (she had stopped by) were making fun of me as I ironed and they watched hockey or something.

Then eventually a group of people gathered in the hall outside our door thinking about what to do. We decided we were hungry so we set out to walk around and find a place to eat. We found the Pickle Barrel, which some of us are familiar with from previous years. I got... I dunno, some kind of angelhair pasta I think. While we were eating, suddenly a guy shouted really loud, "I dunno what I've been told!" This was then echoed by about 8 other people who were with him. It only took me a second or two to realize this was this resaurants version of a birthday ritual. "Someone here is gettin' old!" (echo) "Twenty, thirty, forty-five!" (echo) "Can't believe you're still alive!" (echo drowned out by laughter from patrons) "Happy" (echo) "Birthday" (echo) "Happy happy birthday..... TO YOU!" That was pleasantly random. :)

After eating we went back to the hotel. We thought we'd see if there were any cool musical groups playing in the bar, but ran into two problems. You have to be 19 to get in (one of us was not), and whatever act was in there was CRAP anyway. So we thought about other things to do. We went up to the 2nd or 3rd floor and found the kids center, pool, and arcade. We played a bunch of air hockey and a little billiards. Then someone pointed out that the pool on that floor was only the kids pool. On the 27th floor there is an adults-only pool, bar and fitness center. On the TWENTY-SEVENTH FLOOR! Damn, what an engineering feat. Well, I guess skyscrapers have always had water tanks at the top anyway... or do they pump the water from the bottom to get water pressure? I really don't know. I just remember in the movie Towering Inferno there was a water tank at the top of the building that they leaked to put out the fire. (Oops, sorry if I ruined the ending for you!) :)

So anyway, a few of us felt like swimming, myself included, but others didn't. So we kinda split the group in half and the non-swimmers meet up with the swimmers after a little while. Jeremy, Sara, Ryan and I went swimming for... oh about an hour I'd guess. That was fun. There was no deep end in the pool, so we could have fun diving or anything. And we were supposed to "act like adults"... horseplay is for the kiddie pool (which is still good-sized.. not your average wading kiddie pool). They require everyone to shower with soap and shampoo BEFORE entering the pool. That make sense - keep the swimmers clean rather than cleaning the water like crazy. I've never seen a rule like that before though, as much sense as it makes. I guess the limited resources for maintining a pool on the 27th floor necessitates it, whereas places like the pool club I went to in my childhood have a big enough pool with plenty of resources and exclusive membership that it's easy enough to keep the water clean even with all the dirty bodies.

Well anyway. :) After swimming for a while, we hopped in the jacuzzi. There must have been some hot babes in there but I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't tell. That's kind of a weird thing though... is it inappropriate of me to look when I can't see? :) I sometimes wonder if it looks like I'm looking at people. I can't tell without being able to see other people's eyes and facial expressions. I feel sort of like a kid hiding under a blanket with half his body sticking out in the open though. Even though I know it's wrong, I feel like since I can't see these people without my glasses on, they can't see me either, so it feels safe to look at them, when it's actually not, so I still try not to.

Well. We finished swimming and went back up to our rooms... decided to play some cards or something. We went up to Sara's room because she got a large corne room by herself and had more floor space. We played spit, a little Uno, then Cindi left and it was just me, Sara and Jeremy left. It was late... we sat on Sara's bed and watched TV a bit. Some movie came on and it had nudity and swearing in it, yet it was on free TV. Wow, not having an FCC... what a concept. :) Somehow the 3 of us ended up under the covers to watch this movie. No, nothing happened. :-P The movie sucked though. And by the time it was over, I was sweating like crazy because it was so hot in the room... I guess Sara had a cold and may have been running a fever so she had the heat cranked up. So after the movie ended I got up and announced I was leaving. Jeremy felt compelled to leave too, for some reason. Poor Sara.

Well we all slept in our own rooms... and damn those beds were comfy! I slept well, even for only getting like 5 or 6 hours. Jeremy got up early to try and go to mass with some friends, but I guess he didn't make it... but I got up because he was up... I got showered and packed and dressed up for the show and walked around down in the lobby looking for people who wanted to eat. I didn't find anybody. :( A few people walked in who had gone to church and just came back from breakfast. After a while I just went back up to my room and watched curling on TV. Eventually Jeremy came back and said he missed the mass group so he had just been wandering around. It was too late now for breakfast, so we just grabbed our stuff and went down to check out.

We loaded on the bus and headed over to the theatre... but there was still about 2 hours left before showtime. I guess they didn't point out clearly enough on the itinerary that we would have this time free between check-out and showtime... because a lot of people rushed to squeeze in breakfast before checkout, then were bored for 2 hours. Well I went with a small group who were interested in eating to a restaurant in another hotel. I got a burger. It was pretty good. We loved the bread. Not a bad place. Probably because it was independently owned/operated... not a lame continental breakfast joint run by the hotel. Speaking of which, many of those who squeezed in breakfast before checkout got a continental breakfast at the Delta Chelsea, and they say it sucked, for what they had to pay. $10 Canadian. I guess they thought it was free or something. I dunno.

So then we walked back to the theatre and still had some time to kill. It was a damn nice day though... we hung out in a park across the street and shed our jackets. I went back to put them on the bus... and when I came back they weren't in the park anymore so I went inside and found my seat in the lower balcony.

I didn't think I'd be able to enjoy "Mamma Mia!" since it's based on music by ABBA, which I know nothing about, although I may have heard some of their songs before and not known it. I got to sit next to Melissa, who sat behind me on the bus. She was obnoxious and loud throughout the whole trip. She just wouldn't shut up. :) Not really. That's just a little thing she does to tease me because I'm so quiet. Out of the blue when I'm not doing anything she'll tell me to be quiet. So I started doing it back to her. It's a very complicated relationship she and I have, let me tell ya. Fortunately she behaved for the show though. :)

I loved the set. These new shows never fail to amaze me with their high-tech set mechanics. Miss Saigon was the first show I saw that used a sloped stage and tracks in the floor that moved the scenery on and off stage without manpower. Well, Mamma Mia! went a step further. Their set was one of complex simplicity. There were just two curved concrete walls. One had a doorway through it, and the other was smaller. They each moved on their own separate semi-circular track in the floor. But not only did they move along the track, they also rotated in position! So each scene was created by moving the two walls into different configurations, using both sides of them. It worked very well. Also, built into the stage floor was a planked walkway extending from down-stage-right at the very edge of the stage above the orchestra pit, curving back up the center of the stage and exiting up-stage-left. But this wasn't just a walkway on the floor... it was also on hydraulic lifts! For one scene, they raised the front section of it about 2 feet above the stage. This became a dock, with the end of the dock being above the orchestra pit. Half way up the stage, a sequence of planks had raised up at individual heights to create stairs... functional stairs that the performers used! In another scene, they raised the back portion of the path while leaving the front portion down, again with a squence of planks creating stairs. Also, the two walls on tracks could be positioned over the walkway so they had to make sure the walls weren't in the way before they raised the path. Then finally, in the last scene they swung the two walls further off stage than they had through the whole show, and raised the ENTIRE path up from front to end. The planks that had been stairs before were now all raised to the same height as the rest of the path. This was all worked beautifully into the scene, as well... Prior to raising the path, the stage was filled with a low fog. A huge moon (almost as large in diameter as the height of the visible stage) was lowered onto the backdrop, and the two main characters stood on the path. Then the whole path raises up with the characters standing on it and the fog rolls off its edges as it becomes a dock above the fog and the characters walk slowly along it into the moon-lit night. Breathtaking. :) There were honestly a few points in the show when I nearly started crying from the emotional intensity created by the effects I was seeing. I know most people would get emotional about the story or the conflict in the characters or the wonderful acting.... but for me, it's the overall splendiferousness of all the high-tech effects put together that triggers the emotional high.

I ended up enjoying the show far more than I could have imagined. You don't need to know anything about ABBA to enjoy the show. They did good in that aspect. But you also get a little something extra from the show if you are familiar with ABBA's songs. Several times throughout the show, a bit of dialog would lead up to one of the characters saying a line (spoken normally) that happened to be a lyric from an ABBA song. This is met by scattered laughter from those in the audience who realize that a song is coming up, and then sure enough the orchestra comes in. It just ads a little more humor to the show, which is has plenty of to start with, so I don't feel like I missed a whole lot.

Great show. :) They need to work on better publicity. I wouldn't have had any interest in the show if I wasn't going with all my RITSMA friends, but after having seen it, if I had known it would be that good my desire to see it would have been much greater.

So after the show we all piled back on the bus and headed for Niagara Falls. Some people changed into more comfy clothes in the bus bathroom. I was perfectly comfortable though. We watched another Muppets video during the ride back. When we got to Niagara Falls, customs getting back into the U.S. was surprisingly easy. Last year they made us all get off the bus and walk through the building one-by-one. This year we had one person from India with a visa which they took a look a look at, then asked to the bus as a whole, "Is everyone else here a US citizen?" to which we all answered yes in unison and he said great, thanks, and left. :)

Just across the border we all ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, where we had a reservation. I didn't eat much because I had that big burger before the show. While there, on their Hard Rock TV, they played an 'NSync song and everyone started booing and hissing. 2 songs later, they played ANOTHER one. And as if that wasn't enough, 2 songs after that they played yet ANOTHER! I have nothing against 'NSync but the reason people were disgusted is because they're NOT "hard rock", and with that I'll agree. Oh but wait, I'm not done. Right after the 3 'NSync songs, they played two by Brittney Spears. And somewhere in there they had one by Christina Aguilera. Must have been a teenybopper video jockey. :)

I managed to get rid of all my Canadian bills I had sitting in my Toronto mug for several years. I still have lots of coins in it but didn't feel like carrying those along too.... but I did bring a few $1 and $2 coins. I know what they're called but I don't know how they're spelled. :)

We got back to RIT around 10pm Sunday, got off the bus and I thought for a moment we had gone too far south. It was 65°F at 10pm! That's not Rochester. :) It was wonderful though. As far as RITSMA trips go, this one had the best weather of all I've been on.

Ok, enough about the trip... now for my latest toy... I got a Logitech iFeel mouse! :-D I heard that the optical mice are very nice, so I went to CompUSA to look at what's available. There's the Microsoft optical mouse... nothing special about it. Then Logitech makes a number of optical mice... one hand-shaped one, one normal-shaped one, and another normal-shaped one that is also an iFeel. There was also a Kenington(?) mouse that looked really cool but I couldn't find it on the shelf. So I got the Logitech iFeel. It kinda scared me that it was USB... whereas the optical one without iFeel was PS/2. I decided to give it a shot anyway though.

WOW this thing is cool! :) While I was installing it, for a while I had both the new USB mouse and the old serial mouse installed at the same time, and they fought over the cursor. :) I could move them in opposite directions and the cursor just kind of jiggles in place. I immediately noticed the higher quality motion sensing though. So smoooooth. :) I can move it diagonally across the screen and it goes in a straight line! ...Instead of skipping left/right and jumping up/down zig-zagging its way like the serial mouse does. I love it. :)

THEN I installed the Immersion software for the force feedback effects. I wasn't sure if I would like this or not but I thought it was worth a try. Well, it was nothing like I expected. :) I had used a Playstation controller before that had force feedback, and all it does is vibrate like a pager. But this mouse does way more than that. It actually has force "themes" you can pick from. One is called "Metalic" and every time you pass over a button or whatever, it makes a "ping" feeling like someone just struck a bar on a xylophone as you were touching it. Another called "rubber band" feels like you just plucked a rubber band. There are about 10 others that are a little less impressive. But you can make your own, too, and you can synthesize your own vibrations (there are like 3 sliders to control the properties) and assign them to specific objects like buttons, window moving/resizing, scrolling, web links, etc. Everything you do can be made to feel a little different. It must do it with a weird speaker or something. It does make a little audible noise, but the computer fan easily drowns it out.

Such fun. :)