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Fender Strat Guitar
Aug 25th, 2009 by Jessica

Fender Squier Affinity Strat HHS Guitar

My Fender Guitar

With wild hopes of escaping the tremendous stress of work and life in general, I picked up a brand new Fender Strat HSS Affinity series electric guitar.  I’ve always wanted to learn how to play, so now maybe I’ll have the chance to do so.

It’s a beautiful guitar in Metallic Blue Rosewood.  It came in a beginner set called the Affinity Series and came with an amp and all the necessary accessories to get started.  Maybe someday I’ll even be able to play a song with it!

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Antiques Roadshow Phoenix
Aug 2nd, 2009 by Jessica

On Saturday, August 1, 2009 Amy and I attended the taping of Antiques Roadshow at the Phoenix Convention Center.  A few months back, I put my name in for a lottery to win tickets, and actually won them!  I watch Antiques Roadshow on TV all the time, and have been for years.  I love antiques, I love television productions, and merging the two together was immensely exciting for me.

Amy and me at Antiques Roadshow

Amy and Jessica at Antiques Roadshow

For our antiques I brought some old books from my DaD and bibles from great-grandmother Helen Gorski.  Amy brought Trafari pins and a Squash Blossom necklace, both from Sophie Dominik.  Amy and I parked her car at her workplace and took the Light Rail downtown to Washington and 3rd Street, right outside the Convention Center.  We had a 2:00pm entrance time and arrived at 1:30pm.  By 2:20pm we had made it through the categorization line and had our tickets for the Books, Jewelry and Tribal Arts lines.

We started at the line for Books and Manuscripts.  There were only about 15 people in line.  We made it to the front pretty quickly and got in line inside the production area. While in the area, I noticed an appraisal being taped of a woman wearing a light blue baseball cap and she had two dark brown shiny glazed pots.  I believe I was directly in the shot straight behind the appraiser, but we’ll have to see if my ugly mug shows up on television.

For books, there were two appraisers, a woman and an older man.  We overheard the man’s appraisals and he was giving a lot of detailed information about the books to the people in front of us.  I was getting really excited at this point, to finally meet our first appraiser!  We ended up going to the woman, who was pretty rude to us and clearly did not want to be there.  She said my leather bound, gold embossed copy of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe from 1888 was “commonly given as a graduation or birthday gift” and had no real value.  (I found one on eBay in bad condition for $120, so what gives?)  She then picked up my Little Library copy of Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and said if I had the entire set it would be worth $100.  Since I only had one, it had no value.  Then she picked up the two bibles from my great-grandmother, and said, “Oh I’ve seen tons of these today.  They are very common.”  She tried to convince me that the oldest one was from 1896, and I told her the next page said it was printed in 1911.

We left Books pretty discouraged, and wandered over to Tribal Arts.  The line was huge – easily 150 people.  I walked over and noticed Jewelry only had about 20 people, so I snagged Amy and we waited for the Jewelry line instead.  It went fairly quickly but we still waited about 20-30 minutes.  Once inside the production area, we approached a man who smiled and seemed generally happy to be there.  He examined the two Trafari Ragdoll pins that Amy had brought, and told us quite a bit about their history.  He said the stones came in red, green, orange and clear (hers were green).  He gave her an estimate of about $75/ea.  She then showed him a Jade ring from her great-grandmother, Malvina Dominik.  (We realized at this point, the 2-item limit was complete BS and people were having tons of things appraised.)  He examined the ring and said it came from China, and that many Polish immigrants came through Russia and China to get to the USA in the 1910 time frame.  We know Malvina came through New York, so we’re not sure how she got the ring.  He said the stone was too light to be of any real monetary value, but it was pretty and sentimental, and he thanked us for bringing it.

Antiques Roadshow Phoenix Ticket

Ticket for Antiques Roadshow Phoenix

We left the Jewelry table with lighter spirits, as the man was genuinely nice and sincere.  I was smiling after this and one of the production managers noticed it, and gave me a friendly nudge and said something to the effect that we must have just hit a big one!  I said no, the appraiser was just really nice to us.  He seemed to be having fun there too.  It was a weird mix of people who were excited and happy, and people who thought it was just another day at the office.

We headed toward the Tribal Arts line which was longer than when we originally got into it.  The line ended up being about 1 hr 45 minutes of standing on concrete, which sucked a lot.  Luckily I had asked one of the volunteers about a chair and they gave us a chair to use in line, so we took turns sitting for a bit while we waited.  We talked to people who drove in from California, Idaho and lots of other places just to come to the show.  In fact, I didn’t talk to anyone from Arizona!  The snowbird behind us moved to Arizona early from Illinois this year just so he could attend the Roadshow.  He applied for tickets at the Madison, Wisconsin show but didn’t get them.

Once we finally made it to the beginning of the line, we found out what the holdup was.  Tribal Arts only had two appraisers, and they kept finding stuff to film, so they would have to get up and do a TV segment.  Leaving only one appraiser to work the table, the line kept backing up more and more.  Even the guy in line in front of us got pulled to go on television with his wool woven red Indian rug.  He had said he thought it was worth about $7,000, and it must have been good, because he got on TV with it.

Here is where things got really exciting for me!  We were brought into the production area and the line was right next to Mark Walburg!  He was taping a few lines for the show, including the closing remarks.  We got to watch as he flubbed lines and talked to the producer.  He asked him, “Should I say this funny, or serious, or sarcastic… How do you want it?”  People in the audience kept making excessive noise or staring at the camera (which they were told not to look at) so he kept having to do them over and over again.  I felt kind of bad for him.  Talk about pressure!  Standing in the middle of a few thousand people staring at you, on camera and having to do it over and over again.  On a fun note, I did get to see the twins!  (For those who don’t know, that’s Leigh and Leslie Keno.)

Sophie Dominik and her Squash Blossom Necklace

Sophie Dominik and her Squash Blossom Necklace

We made it to the front of the Tribal Arts table and talked to a nice woman.  She took Amy’s squash blossom necklace and examined it.  “These are all handmade silver beads, the necklace is hand made and hand set, the turquoise is very nice and the design is quite nice.  It is likely Navajo [from northern AZ] or Zuni made [from Gallup, Texas] and was made in the 1940′s or early 1950′s.  It’s worth about twelve to fifteen hundred.”  Holy crap!  $1200-$1500?!  Amy pulled out the single earring we had that Sophie used to wear with the necklace.  The other earring is forever lost.  The appraiser lit up – she said the earring was beautiful and she loved it.  Alone as a single it is worth about $150, and as a set would bring about $500 at auction.  Dang it, I wish we knew what happened to the other one!

We thanked the Tribal Arts appraiser and walked outside the production area.  I grabbed my Blackberry and started writing down the details so we wouldn’t forget anything she said.  Amy and I agree that it must be Navajo, because Sophie had never gone to Texas.  The family moved to Arizona in 1949 and she must have got it shortly after arriving here.  We were both absolutely stunned to find out how valuable it is.  We had made guesses at about $100-$200 as we were waiting.

After that, we headed towards the Feedback Booth.  I came up with a little skit for us while we waited, which was only a minute or so because nobody else was doing the Feedback Booth.  The cameraman called for us and we entered the booth, and performed our little skit.  The cameraman laughed at the end and said, “That was good!”  I think we have a pretty good chance of making it on camera at the end of the show.  We shall see!  The show is scheduled to air on PBS in January, 2010.

So there you have it.  Amy and I had a great adventure at Antiques Roadshow here in Phoenix!  We took the Light Rail back to Amy’s car, and then had dinner at Olive Garden with Andrew.  It was a really fun day, and I’m so glad we went!

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Botcon 2009 & Universal’s VIP Tour
Jun 7th, 2009 by Jessica

On Wednesday, May 27, 2009 Andrew and I traveled to Pasadena to attend Botcon 2009.  For those who don’t know, Botcon is the annual Transformers convention.  This year it was in California, within driving distance, so we decided to check it out.  Pasadena is about 6 hours from Gilbert by car.  We stayed there until Sunday, May 31.  The following is an account of the trip and all the neat stuff we did.

Driving to Pasadena & Dinner at Pink’s

Wednesday morning we hopped in the car from Andrew’s parents’ house and headed on the road.  We had been staying there (off and on with Amy) since the previous Thursday because their house had been broken into while they were away in Ireland.  We installed a security door over their front door and hoped that was enough to keep them from coming back.

During our trip through southern California we stopped at several Target stores.  Super Target had decided to sell the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen figures early.  The street date for sale wasn’t until Friday, May 29 but Andrew already had several figures by this time.  We collected as many new ones as we could on our way to Pasadena and had several new ones by the time we arrived at the hotel.  I’ll let Andrew talk about specifics because I can’t keep the figures straight!

We checked into the hotel around 4pm and headed out for food.  We decided to check out Pink’s famous hot dogs since we had heard so much about the place, and my sister had told us it was pretty good.  I braced myself for a thousand people in line but alas, Wednesday at 5pm there were about 3 people there.  Hooray!  We grabbed two hotdogs, onion rings, fries and two drinks for about $20 and sat down to experience Pink’s.  Their hotdogs are not like I’m used to, because they still have the casing on.  They are crunchy.  The onion rings were really good though – overall it was a decent meal.  It would be a great place to eat if you love crazy stuff on your hotdog (but I like mine naked so it didn’t matter to me that it was from Pink’s).

We went back to the hotel and then to get in line for Botcon registration.  This was the first of many, many hours spent in line at the convention.  We were eventually able to register and Andrew got his Botcon exclusives.  I’ll let him fill in all the details.  After that we headed on back to the hotel and I crashed for the night while he began transforming his new toys.

On Thursday, Andrew attended a Transformers Customizing Class.  He learned how to put the mold together piece by piece and then paint or airbrush the parts.  I’ll let him describe that experience.

Universal Studios VIP Tour

Meanwhile on Thursday, I took a VIP Tour of Universal Studios in Hollywood.  My tour started at 10:00am and lasted until 4:00pm or so.  I arrived at the VIP Tour door and inside was a very nice lounge for VIP guests with drinks and fruit and snacks to enjoy.  The tours are limited to only 16 people and mine had 14, so it was a nice small group.  The tour guide, Mark, was fantastic!  The whole day he really kept the group together and was entertaining.  His job is not easy and I admired the way he combined his knowledge with his “acting” skills to keep us surprised.

The tour began with a trip to the Mancini Sound Building.  We got to enter the dubbing studio where the Shrek movies were voiced (among many others).  Then we actually got to go into the primary editing studio and see the Harrison console, which is a world famous sound editing console that takes up an entire room.  Apparently it’s being replaced with a single laptop soon, so it’s nice to have seen it while it still exists.  We then got to walk up with Sound Stage 12 where they film huge movie sets like Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and some of the Transformers.  We didn’t get to go in, but heard some funny stories about it.

Sound Stage 29 was our next stop, a small building in comparison to the others.  We got to hop off the trolly and go inside the studio.  Universal rents out sound stages to all of the major production studios in the world.  It rents for about $30,000 per day, according to Mark, and all you get is literally the building.

The production wood mill, metal shop and sign shop were next on the list.  We got to walk through each area and see props and sets being made by the staff.  They showed some examples of how the sets are built for movies to be easily destructable, and described how that caused the Universal fire to be larger than it should have been.  The sign shop was pretty cool, and Mark talked about product placement in the movies and how marketing bargains with corporations for logo use and intellectual property rights.  On our way out of the sign shop we passed by Giada De Laurentiis’ office, which apparently used to be the office of Alfred Hitchcock.

We took the trolley for a tour of the back lot sets that the regular tour also sees.  Our tour was on an old fashioned trolley while most people take the little white train around.  The trolley actually got to go over the collapsing bridge that was used in several films, and have it “collapse” on us.  You can read more about the bridge here.  After that we saw the area used to film water rushing in movies such as Big Fat Liar.  The whole skit is covered on countless websites such as this one so I won’t go into much detail.

Now, onto the pièce de résistance – the prop warehouse!  This is the reason I took the tour and I am SO glad I did.  We arrived on the first floor and were allowed to wander around a bit and take pictures.  I thought this was all we were going to see so I took a lot of pictures at this point.  There were aisles of nothing but chairs – big chairs, little chairs, green chairs, yellow chairs, old chairs, new chairs, chairs everywhere.  Each section had a sheet that showed how many chairs were in the set, what the period and color was, and other identifying information.  They had tons and tons of stuff, and the chairs are just one example.

We then went to the second floor, which is the coolest place I’ve ever been on a tour!  Aisle after aisle of tens of thousands of items that can be rented for props in movies.  Assorted cups and dishes, assorted fine china, pots and pans, coffee makers, cafeteria items, signage, bronze statues, family portraits, frames, porcelain busts, computers, cameras, writing supplies, electric fans, radios, vases, caskets…  The quantity and variety of items on the shelves were staggering.  I took tons of pictures and video to see.  It was truly awesome.  Upon leaving, one of the studio employees gave away a few actual props from some movies that were headed towards the trash.  I know, trash fodder, but it was cool to me nonetheless.  I got a 5×7 picture of Ben Affleck and his “bride,” Robin Wright Penn, that was used in a movie set for State of Play.

Unfortunately I used up all my memory card taking pictures and video in the prop house, and have no pictures from the rest of the tour.  We got to see the Bates Motel and the Psycho house, followed by Whoville.  What a combination eh?  The it was off to the War of the Worlds set where our trolley stopped and we got off to walk around the set.  We walked right up to the crashed 747 and got to take pictures (well, would have, if I’d had any memory left).  Mark told us to “Wave to the regular people” on the white train as it zoomed by.  That’s one difference between the VIP Tour and the regular back lot tour – the VIP tour actually stops and lets you get off to walk around the sets.  It’s well worth the extra money, by far.

We finished up by taking a drive up and down Wysteria Lane from the show Desperate Housewives.  The funny thing was that Mark described every house and who lives their now on the show, but then discussed the previous residents.  For example, one of the homes was used for the Munsters, and it has a fresh coat of paint and new landscaping now to fit the scene.  All of the homes had previous lives and I wish I could remember all that he said but alas, no more memory card. =(  I guess I’ll just have to take the tour again… Darn!

After that it was off to the Waterworld stunt show, then to a private lunch which was included.  The lunch was a buffet with a good variety of food and all the drinks you could drink.  They even followed up with dessert.  The remainder of the tour was spent literally going to every ride in the park and cutting in front of everyone else standing in line to get directly on the ride.  I’m talking – straight to the front of the line in front of the people with “front of the line” passes.  Mark kept stopping to show us “the line you won’t be standing in” and then taking us around the back way to get on the rides.  Another very good reason that this tour is worth every penny – no lines, period.  I went through the House of Horrors, Shrek 4D and the Simpsons before calling it a day.  The tour continued but I wasn’t interested in the other rides, so I bid farewell and went back to the hotel.

Botcon 2009

I arrived back to the hotel and quickly grabbed my Botcon lanyard and headed down the street to the Pasadena Convention Center.  Since we registered on Wednesday night, for Thursday we got in line for the Club Store opening.  Andrew got there about 4:00pm and I joined him shortly thereafter.  The Club Store opened at 6pm.  We were approximately 10th in line for the Cash Only line.  Andrew was able to get all of the things he wanted there, complete with the “first issue” stickers with the May 28th date on them.  I spent a bit of time taking pictures around the convention hall, including some awesome 3D shots of the Bumblebee and Optimus Prime statues.  After that, it was back to the hotel for a repeat of the night before.

Friday morning we were in line again to enter, this time to go straight to the auditorium where the panels were being held.  Andrew hung out there while I went to sit in line for the Dealer Room.  The Dealer Room is where they have about 200 dealers all selling their Transformer wares.  I got in line at 11:30am for a 2:00pm opening.  We were about 30th in line for the room at that time.  I sat there and watched Twilight on my iPod and waited for him to finish all the panels.  He went to grab lunch and then took his place in line so I could go walk around a bit and use the bathroom.  At 2pm, we entered the dealer room and the buying frenzy began!  Andrew got autographed art prints by Marcelo Matere and Alex Milne.  I’ve never seen Andrew wheel and deal before but he was haggling with dealers and looking for the best prices… It was really quite humorous to me.  I followed him around with all the bags and freebies and posters in tow.  The rest of the day was kind of a blur to me, although I remember going back to the hotel to read and take a nap, and having Andrew go back to the conference without me to do more activities in the evening.

Saturday morning we got up at 6am and headed over to get in lines again.  As a “Primus Package” holder, Andrew was allowed to get in line for Weird Al Yankovic’s autograph at a smaller side building.  I got in line for Peter Cullen’s autograph at the main building.  Weird Al does the voice of Wreck Gar in the animated series for Transformers, while Petter Cullen is famous for doing Optimus Prime in the movies as well as other famous characters such as Eeyore.  Weird Al started signing at 9am and was limited to 240 people, while Peter Cullen didn’t start until 10:30am and was limited to only 120 people.  I was insanely jealous that Andrew got to meet Weird Al and that I couldn’t go, but more on that later.  By about 9:15, Andrew had Weird Al’s autograph and came to take my 10th place in line for Peter Cullen’s autograph.  I quickly switched over to the autograph line for David Kaye (the voice of Optimus Prime and Megatron in the animated series).  I tried to get Andrew to get David’s signature while I held the spot in Peter Cullen’s line, but for some reason he wanted me to meet David Kaye so I did.  I was wearing a t-shirt that said “I love Bumblebee” and he told me how he was texting “Bumblebee” earlier (aka Mark Ryan) and he would be sure to tell him that I loved him.  LOL!

After getting David Kaye’s autograph, I left Andrew in line for Peter Cullen and I saved a seat for the upcoming panels.  At 10:40am I snuck out of the panel and took pictures of Andrew meeting Peter Cullen.  Then he came into the panel auditorium with me and saved our seats there while I went to grab lunch at Island’s.  I don’t know how on earth you could possibly do all the activities at a convention like this with fewer than two people working in tandem.  Four would be better, I’m sure.  After lunch, I brought some food back for Andrew to eat while sitting in the panel and I went to browse the dealer room again.  I bought a few things for Andrew and snuck them back to the room while he was in the Hasbro panel.  I got “The Fallen” which is a new character in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  I also picked up an autographed Sunstreaker print from Dan Khanna.  Sunstreaker is Andrew’s favorite Transformer.  It was his first ever.  After the panels were over, Andrew browsed the dealer’s room for a while picking up odds and ends of things.  He commissioned a custom sketch of Sunstreaker by Matt Moylan.

Party at Paramount Studios

It was Saturday at 3pm, and time to go to the hotel for a nap and shower before we went to get in line for the busses to take us to the Party and Paramount Studios.  We arrived in line at about 5:45pm and were very glad to did.  As it turns out, they took 600 people (which translates to 15 busses).  We were lucky to be on the third bus, and were able to arrive at Paramount and eat hot food and grab a table to sit at.  The people later in line were much less fortunate.  I heard stories of bus drivers getting lost and some people didn’t even get there until 8:30pm.  The party started at 7pm.

I noticed that Weird Al Yankovic had arrived at the party and was walking around mingling with folks.  He made is way over to the side and was hanging out.  I looked at Andrew and thought, I wonder if he’d mind if I went to say hi?  So, I walked up to him and waited a moment while he had his picture with a few girls, and then just walked up and shook his hand.  He was so nice!  He asked me if I was having a good time and was very cordial.  He even let me take a picture with him.  I thanked him for being there and went back to my dinner.  How cool is that?  I was jealous that Andrew got his autograph, but I ended up getting a picture with him!

The buffet dinner wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either.  They had burgers and veggie burgers, barbeque chicken, corn on the cob and some other random stuff.  Sodas were free but cocktails were $7.  Since Andrew refused to bring a jacket and he was freezing, I gave him the jacket I had and he got me a few Sprite w/ Sour Apple Pucker’s to warm me up.  I guess that’s one benefit of alcohol, it makes you think you are warm (even when your toes are freezing off).

The party had a few other cool guests, including Ironhide and Ratchet.  We got pictures with both of them and got to check them out up close and personal.  Tyrese Gibson arrived in Ratchet and took the stage to answer questions from the fans.  He then got a shock when they brought Peter Cullen out on stage who proceeded to impress everyone with his range of voice capabilities.  (In the panel earlier, Andrew said that Peter performed “Transform, and roll out” as the voice of Eeyore.  I wish I had heard that – I nearly pee from laughter just thinking about it!)

Stan Bush then took the stage to perform some of his famous songs, such as “The Touch” from the original Transformers movie in the 1980′s.  He had about 10 loyal fans, and the rest of us who just wanted to get on to whatever the next part would be.  We had no idea what was coming, but when I got off the bus I heard one of the staffers coordinating some VIPs and she said, “Take them right to the theater?  Ok, let’s go.”  So I knew we would be going to a “theater” of some sort.  We were all hoping we’d get a chance to actually see ROTF but we knew the movie was rumored not to be finished yet, so our hopes weren’t that high.

After Stan’s set, some officials got up to announce the winners of the contests that had been going on during the convention.  Near the middle of it, he got cut short and told everyone with a blue wristband (that was us) to head out the way we came in for a “short presentation.”  We darted towards the door and across the campus of Paramount Studios with 300 of our closest friends to get in another line.  Once outside the Paramount Theater, we were ordered to put anything and everything electronic inside a manilla envelope with a claim sticker attached before we could go inside.  We complied immediately like everyone else and went inside the theater.  This place was like no theater I had ever been in – state of the art, incredibly comfortable seats, massive screen, amazing sound…  Paramount definitely does it right.  We grabbed seats near the door and sat down to discover what would await us.

About ten minutes later, one of the convention guys got up on stage to give us “good news and bad news.”  Bad news of course, the film was not finished yet so we would be watching the latest trailer.  As the audience boo’d and hollared, a man snuck in the side door nearby our seats.  Andrew whispered to me, “That’s Michael Bay!”  Sure enough, as people caught wind of who just walked in, the theater exploded with applause and screams.  He took the stage and began talking about where they were with the film and what they were doing to try and complete it on time.  He then introduced two different sections of the film for us to see, each about 5 minutes in length.  The first section was when Devastator transforms, and the second was part of Bumblebee’s fight scene.  They were both incredible, even “without finished sound effects, finished color, or finished special effects” as Michael Bay explained.  What a treat for everyone in the crowd!  We didn’t get to see the whole second movie, but at least they showed us stuff nobody had yet to see.

We left the theater and got in line to pick up our electronics.  It was then when we realized that we were the first ones to see it, and the other 300 people with red/yellow wristbands were waiting outside the theater for us to finish.  I’m quite surprised they couldn’t hold all of us in a single theater, because it sure felt huge to me.  Maybe because the seats were so comfortable and the aisles were so large, the capacity is inherintly smaller.  We made our way past the line of people heading into the theater, and back to watch good ole’ Stan Bush perform a bunch of cover songs.  (“I’ll bet he breaks out into ‘Summer of 69′ – wait for it – HAHAHAHA!”)  Sorry, little inside joke there.

We took another look at Ironhide and Ratchet, and wandered around the Paramount lot a bit.  There wasn’t too much left to see.  Eventually we realized they had already started bussing people back to the hotel, so we went to grab a ride back around 11:45pm.  It had been a very long, very exciting day!

Sunday’s Drive Home

On Sunday morning I slept in while Andrew went over to see the last panels.  He spent the night before packing up all of his new Transformers and paraphanelia (totaling 53 new ones plus posters, comic books, and lots more stuff).  When I finally got up around 9am I started loading the car.  By 11:30 after 7 trips to the parking garage, I had everything ready to go.  I checked out of the hotel and drove over to the convention center just in time to pick up Andrew after the last panel.  We then began our trip back to Phoenix, stopping at all the Target, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart stores along the freeway to pick up additional exclusive toys on our way home.  We finally made it back into Phoenix at about 7:30pm and stopped at Andrew’s folks’ house to see them.  We hadn’t seen them since they left for Ireland on May 14th so it was nice to say hello even briefly.

So, there you have it.  That was our trip to California for Botcon, 2009.  It was an adventure – a good one – and I’m glad we went.  I just hope next year’s Botcon isn’t within driving distance because it was absolutely exhausting, and I think I need a few years to recover… =)

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I Love Bumblebee!
May 2nd, 2009 by Jessica

I Love Bumblebee

I Love Bumblebee!

While attending a special screening of the first Transformers movie with Andrew, I found myself doing crazy things to try and win him a chance to the premiere of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen in Hollywood.  I ended up on stage as a finalist in a contest, and won my chance to submit a video describing why I was the world’s biggest Transformers fan.  I produced the video, uploaded it, and was never selected to be voted on.  Don’t get me started on this topic – it was absolutely ludicrous that I wasn’t selected, considering the absolute crap they ended up posting.

Anyway, I took some still shots of me with a few of Andrew’s Bumblebee figures.  It ended up being a pretty good shot, and shows just how far this crazy wife will go to do something nice for her husband.  We still ended up seeing the second movie at the exact same time as the premiere, since a friend of mine scored tickets in a contest and gave them to us.  All’s well that end’s well, eh?

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I love Rock Band
Mar 19th, 2009 by Jessica

Rock Band
Rock Band

I love Rock Band.

You know, that really doesn’t do it justice. I’m not even sure I can put into words just how much I love playing Rock Band. I must qualify this statement a little further though. I love Rock Band on the XBox 360. The Wii version blows chunks.

Now that we’ve got that little fact out of the way, you may be asking yourself, why does Jessica love Rock Band so much?

‘Cuz I get to sing, loudly, at the top of my lungs, and it’s actually with a purpose: to ROCK!

Andrew and I first got Rock Band for the XBox 360 in November, 2007. We had played Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II for a long time before that. Once Guitar Hero III came out, we realized how much it was different than the first two, because it wasn’t made by the same company. Instead of making GH3, Harmonix branched out into Rock Band.

Rock Band. What a concept! Guitar, bass, an awesome drum kit, and… what’s this? A microphone? A karaoke machine for my living room? Uhoh!

Verdana
Verdana

I even got to create my very on stage persona – a rocker chick with a black and blue streaked Asymetrical Bob named Verdana. Andrew and I created a band called Lucky Briefcase, and went off on tour together.

Until Rock Band, I had only sang into a microphone one time in my life. It was at my Aunt Colleen’s Marti Gras party. I sang Material Girl by Madonna and I SUCKED ASS. Glad it was only family listening, cuz boy oh boy I was horrible.

I nervously picked up the mic and started to sing to Nirvana’s In Bloom on Easy. I think that first song I scored something like 95% overall. Then I moved on to Garbage and I Think I’m Paranoid. 100% on Easy, woohoo!

I was instantly hooked. The computer liked my voice! For some reason, I found that I did pretty well on the microphone. I kept playing vocals, and we made our way through the Rock Band game. We never did attempt the Endless Set List in Rock Band, because our XBox 360 kept freezing up and we kept having to restart it.

Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2

After they announced Rock Band 2, I went out and bought a new XBox 360. I was sick and tired of ours locking up every time it spun up the disk. The new 360 had the ability to download the game directly onto the hard drive, so it didn’t have to spin up the game disk to continue. We eagerly made our way through Rock Band 2, and even completed the Endless Set List on Hard in November 2008! That’s right – 84 songs in a row!

So, I play the game a lot. I play with Andrew, I play on my own… I even bought the Wii version so I can play in the living room by myself, but that version sucks. First of all it’s not in HD, and the graphics engine is snail slow. The wifi lags so much that I can’t play online because the lyrics “paint” across the screen, so it thinks I am not singing when I am. Very frustrating.

We have invested more into Rock Band and Rock Band 2 than any other video game franchise in history. If you know Andrew and me even a little bit, you’ll know that we have an addiction to video games and video game systems… So that is saying a LOT.

Just how much have we spent on Rock Band?

Verdana - My Character
Verdana – My Character

Rock Band Special Edition for XBox 360 – $189.99
Rock Band 2 for XBox 360 – $59.99
Rock Band 2 for Wii – $49.99
Guitar Repair – $0.00 (Microsoft warranty)
Drum Kit Repair – $0.00 (Microsoft warranty)
Wireless Guitar – $39.99
Replacement Drum Kit – $79.99
Replacement Microphone – $29.99
Rock Band Drum Silencers – $19.99
Second set of Rock Band Drum Silencers – $19.99
Microphone Stand – $39.99
Drum Seat – $29.99
Metal Drum Petal Cover – $9.99
New Drum Sticks – $9.99
Personalized Figurine from Harmonix – $69.99

Subtotal: $649.21 plus tax

and last but not least…

25 free downloaded song tracks at $0 each: $0.00
121 paid downloaded song tracks at ~$2 each: $242.00

Grand Total: $891.21 plus tax

Oh yeah, and I can’t forget the cost of the new XBox 360 which was purchased specifically to play Rock Band 2. So, we can add an additional $399.99 to that grand total above…

I don’t often sing praise about myself (pun intended) but I am damn good at expert vocals. For most songs, I am in the top 5% in the world on the leaderboards. For many of them, I am in the top 10 or 20 in the world. Granted, not as many people are singing vocals than are playing guitar or drums, but still… it’s quite an accomplishment for me. For career leaderboard, I am within the top 1,000 players worldwide on solo vocals.

Here are some of the songs on which I have personally reached above #100 in the world for vocals (at the time the scores were uploaded):

Verdana #1 - We Got The Beat
Verdana #1 – We Got The Beat

Sex Type Thing – Stone Temple Pilots – #99
Timmy & The Lords of the Underworld – #98
29 Fingers – The Konks – #97
I’m So Sick – Flyleaf – #88
Day Late, Dollar Short – The Acro-Brats – #84
Nightmare – Crooked X – #83
Say It Ain’t So – Weezer – #75
Synchronicity II – Police – #72
Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones – #63
Down With The Sickness – Disturbed – #53
Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters – #53
Brainpower – Freezepop – #52
Can’t Let Go – Death of the Cool – #29
Spoonman – Soundgarden – #27
Seven – Vagiant – #24
Bang A Gong – T. Rex – #23
Juke Box Hero – Foreigner – #21
My Lovely Man – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #7
If You Have to Ask – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #6
Nine In The Afternoon – Panic at the Disco – #6
So Watcha Want – Beastie Boys – #4
That’s What You Get – Paramore – #4
Apache Rose Peacock – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #3
Funky Monks – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #3
Dani California – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #3
Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers – #2
We Got The Beat – The Go Go’s – #1

Needless to say, I know every single fluctuation in the pitch and tone for every song Anthony Kiedas sings on the Red Hot Chili Pepper album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. As for We Got The Beat, I can’t even explain it. I hate that song! I guess nobody else likes it either.

I can’t WAIT for Pearl Jam’s Ten album to be released on March 24th! That entire album was my teenage anthem. Get ready to add another $20.00 to the total!

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Skyventure Adventure
Aug 19th, 2008 by Jessica

A big group of us went indoor skydiving in Eloy, Arizona this past weekend for Amy’s birthday.  Everyone seemed to have a great time in the wind tunnel.  Even my mother-in-law got in!  Andrew said his back was killing him the next day because of how he was arching his body.  Doesn’t sound like fun to me, but hey, to each his own!

I took pictures and my father-in-law took video of the whole thing.  They turned out pretty well considering we were shooting through scratched up 1/2″ plexiglass!  Here is a photo slideshow of the event.  Out of the 1,111 photos I took in the 30-minutes we were there, about 100 of them turned out good.  1 in 11 isn’t bad considering the conditions I was shooting in!

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Sunday Afternoon
Aug 3rd, 2008 by Jessica

It is so strange to me to have days where I have no obligations. Sure I have plenty of things that I’d like to work on: photography, PhotoShop, genealogy, family archives, Rock Band world tour, piano… There’s nothing that I *have* to do. It’s a foreign concept to me, having completed my Master’s degree and not having to work 24/7…

I find myself sometimes walking around the house, trying to figure out what to do next.  Top that with absolutely no vacations planned in our future, and it’s a bit overwhelming to have all of this freedom!

So you might ask, what does someone with soooo much free time do with all of it?  Aside from those things I listed above, and traveling as much as possible, I do watch a lot of television.  I enjoy shows like:

  • Mythbusters
  • Good Eats
  • Ace of Cakes
  • Beyond Tomorrow
  • What You Get for the Money: Homes
  • House Hunters
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Samantha Brown (any of her shows)
  • anything new on Discovery, Food Network or Fine Living

I surf the web briefly every day, but I find it hard to stay occupied doing it for long.  I check out the following websites on a regular basis:

  • icanhascheezburger.com
  • www.cuteoverload.com
  • www.happynews.com
  • www.azcentral.com

By the time I finish with these sites, I am usually ready to move on to something else.

So there you have it.  All of my newly found free time is taken up by the above.  I’m just so glad to be done with case briefs and group projects!

On September 2nd I will start a Portrait Photography class at the community college.  I’m sure that will be lots of fun!  I’ll probably purchase my own studio light kit, so if you have any tips on those, please let me know!

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It’s past Christmas already?
Dec 27th, 2007 by Jessica

Well, okay then.  I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging before!  A lot has happened since Halloween.  Let’s see if I can recap.

November saw lots of homework.  We started two new classes in the MSIM program: Business Process and Workflow Analysis, and Enterprise Application Integration.  We completed the first five weeks during the first week of December, and will resume the next five weeks on January 14th. 

In the meantime, we are working heavily on our applied project, forming a real technology venture and completing the business plan.  We start our Winter Intensive course this Saturday.  It’s a 3-credit Master’s course in just 2 1/2 weeks: Managing Enterprise Applications.  I’ve been doing a lot of homework to get it out of the way before the Intensive starts.  Hopefully it won’t be that bad.

On the work front, I accepted a very cool position working with an excellent team in Operations.  As we grow closer to go-live on February 19th, a lot of changes are in the works.  Ops will take on the challenge of being Tier 2 triage for SIS issues.  There is a lot of work to be done, but I have excellent people to help with the tasks at hand!  I am so fortunate to have the chance to work with them.

Thanksgiving was different this year.  Mom, Dad, Andrew and I went over to Aunt Barbara and Uncle Mike’s house.  That was it!  Nobody else showed up.  The family is still going through some changes ever since Grandma passed away in 2005.  I wish everyone could just get along.

Andrew and I have been playing Rock Band (Xbox 360) and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) quite a bit together.  I enjoy the vocals in Rock Band, and I even managed to make it to #3 in the world on the leaderboard in vocals for Dani California by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Freakin’ sweet!  Number three…  In the whole world!  I guess the computer likes my tone.  I can’t sing for real but I guess I match the computer just right!  We beat Super Mario Galaxy tonight, but will continue to play it and try to collect all the stars.  We like both of these games because they are cooperative efforts, and we can both play together at the same time.

We went to California the weekend of December 14th and met up with our friend Mike and his new girl, Rachel.  We tried going to Knotts Berry Farm but it was “Bring a toy and get in free” weekend, and the line to buy tickets was INSANE.  Thousands of people were single-file-lined-up to get into the park.  Forget it!  We drove over to Anaheim and waited a few minutes for a 3-day park hopper.  Then we hit California Adventure, followed by Disneyland.  It was lots of fun!

Andrew’s birthday was pretty good, and we celebrated with dinner at Rustler’s Rooste.  I got him a subscription to gamefly.com so he can rent hard to find games.  He seems pretty psyched about it!  Hopefully it works out well for him.  We threw him a little Transformers birthday party with Snickers ice cream cake.  He loved all the kitchy plastic tablecloths stickers and paper plates/napkins with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.  Who needs kids when we can both act like them?!  =)

December 21st was my last day of work until January 2nd.  The College District is on paid holiday for 12 whole days!  Hooray!  Andrew and I have been quite sick with matching sore throats and head colds.  This is the first vacation we’ve ever had that we stayed home on.  It was our choice to stay home (well, Andrew’s mostly, but I thought I’d give it a try).  It has been really relaxing to just sit around and get homework done and watch television.  I’ve been eating lots of junk food and cleaning up the house.  I guess I prefer to leave town when I’m on vacation, but with us being sick, I guess it worked out well this time.

Christmas this year was really low-key.  We tossed and turned all night with matching coughs and woke up being smothered by our four kitties.  We opened gifts together and gave the kitties their new toys and treats.  Then we headed over to pick up Mom, and Dad took Reesy in his car.  We drove out to the Fox’s for a Christmas lunch barbeque.  After a quick exchange it was off back home to relax for the rest of the day.

That pretty much brings us up to speed, I think.  So as I sit here typing, watching Cars on television, Andrew is resting and all the kitties are asleep…  I guess it’s time to do more homework.  Hopefully I can get ahead far enough that I don’t stress about it in January.  We’re almost halfway done with the Master’s program.  Holy cow!  Halfway point… I never thought I’d get this far.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Cirque du Soleil ~ KA at MGM Grand
Aug 5th, 2007 by Jessica

Andrew and I went to see KA at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  We have seen a number of Cirque du Soleil shows – almost all of them, in fact.  The only two we could see that we haven’t yet are Zumanity and Love.

KA was overall kind of boring.  We did get $50 tickets because of the Summer of Cirque campaign, however, making the show worth what we paid for it.  I felt that there were too few strong acts, dotted with some truly amazing stunts.  There is one part of the show that is a sort of human pegboard or plinko board which is executed very well.  It seems to me like they could have done a lot more with it.  Otherwise, the soundtrack wasn’t great and the acts in general lacked in flare.

If you want to see a general Cirque show or want to see all of them, then I’d recommend the cheap seats if you can get them.  Otherwise, stick with Mystere or O instead.

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Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows
Jul 22nd, 2007 by Jessica

It took about 16 hours of reading, but I just finished HP7.  All I can say is, I was sort of off-base in my predictions, but then again, I was right on the money with them.

Confused?  Then go!  Read!  Now!

I’m just grateful that I managed to read the whole story before anyone spoiled it for me.  Andrew is only about halfway done, so hopefully he will finish it tomorrow so we can discuss it.

I hope those of you who were as excited as I was to read the final book found it as amazing and enthralling as I did.  I also hope those of you who have not yet finished, aren’t spoiled before you complete it.  Now, get to it!

For some crazy reason, we decided to go stand in line to buy Deathy Hallows at Wal-Mart around 11:30pm Friday night.  There were probably 100 people in line in front of us, and I expected to be waiting for more than an hour.  Shockingly, we had purchased the book and were heading to the car by 12:11am.  I never thought I’d say this in my lifetime, but dang – way to go, Wal-Mart! 

There was a cool excitement in the air and I’m really glad we decided to go to the midnight launch.  I wonder how long it will be before another book is as anticipated, as revered, as desired as HP7?

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