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ManicMorFF

ManicMorFF
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Member since: 13.05.2009

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      18.01.2010 00:04
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      A must-do coaster

      This review only relates to the Nemesis roller coaster at Alton Towers.

      Until I went on Montu at Busch Gardens in Florida, Nemesis at Alton Towers in England was probably my favourite coaster. Over the years, I've been To Alton Towers many, many times and whenever I'm there, I always make a point of having at least a couple of goes on this fabulous coaster.

      Alton Towers is situated in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside in England, about equidistant between Stoke-On-Trent and Derby, if you know that neck of the woods. You drive through some winding roads through some really beautiful countryside to get from the motorway to the park.
      Nemesis Coaster Vital Statistics

      Type of ride: Steel 'inverted' coaster

      * Height: 43 feet
      * First drop: 104 feet
      * Top speed: 60 mph
      * Track length: 2349 feet
      * Ride time: 1:20 minutes (actual 0:55)
      * Inversions: 4
      * Max G:Force: 4
      * Height requirement: 54 inches
      * Opened: 19/03/1994
      * Manufacturer: Bolliger & Mallibard

      Nemesis is an 'Inverted' coaster, meaning the cars hang down from the track. You've got a full, over-the-shoulder harness, so no danger of you falling out while your legs dangle in the air below you. As mentioned before, I am a big fan of inverted coasters. Nemesis is alien-themed, with all it's fabricated purple sinuey glory and rivers of purple alien-blood running down the sides of the rides into pools below.

      We kick off with the traditional chain lift taking us up to its max height of 150 feet an a wonderful view of the park and surrounding area. Then, we're over the apex and with a small initial dip and twist to the left we're off!

      First up is a barrel-roll inversion (sideways loop the loop), into a big curve with a good serving of g-forces with a follow-on barrel-roll.

      Then we dive below ground-level amongst all the alien blood as a lead-up into a full 360 degree outside loop. With your legs hanging on the outside of the loop, you really get a feel for the speed at this point. Then it's back below ground-level again for another look at the rivers of blood.

      On coming up from the ground the second time, we veer round to the left and back below ground briefly before our last inversion, a clockwise barrel-roll before the slowdown and the all-too-soon end.

      Verdict?

      Despite being over 15 years old, still one of the top coasters in the UK!

      ** This review also appears on my blog.

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        31.10.2009 01:17
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        You gotta try this if you're in Florida

        This review is specifically about the Montu roller coaster at Busch Gardens, Florida.

        One of my favourite coasters to date is Montu at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.

        Busch Gardens is about 90 minutes drive from Disneyworld in Florida and for the coaster fans amongst you, well worth the visit. It's a dual-type park with one half being a nature reserve/animal park and the other half dedicated to your more typical entertainment-type theme park, with coasters!

        It's quite a few years since I was there, but I can still remember the coasters like it was last year. I went on them with my fellow coaster-obsessive daughter and for Montu, we were very fortunate to hit it at a time when the ride was uncharacteristically quiet, so we went on this at least five times consecutively.
        Montu Coaster Vital Statistics

        Type of ride: Steel 'inverted' coaster

        * Height: 150 feet
        * First drop: 128 feet
        * Top speed: 60 mph
        * Track length: 3983 feet
        * Ride time: 1:10 minutes
        * Inversions: 7
        * Max G:Force: 3.84
        * Height requirement: 54 inches
        * Opened: 16/05/1996
        * Manufacturer: Bolliger & Mallibard

        Montu is an 'Inverted' coaster, meaning the cars hang from the track, you're fully harnessed in and your legs dangle freely below you. I'm a big fan of this coaster genre as it gives the impression of less constricted than the traditional car-type coaster. It's an Egyptian themed coaster, so there's lots of mummies-tomb like scenarios around and during the ride.

        We kick off with the traditional chain lift taking us up to its max height of 150 feet an a wonderful view of the park and surrounding area. Then, we're over the apex and with a small initial dip and twist to the left we're off!

        First up, we have a full height vertical loop, taking full advantage of the earlier 150 foot climb with loads of G's, then we go semi-underground into a simulated tomb; watch out for the walls! Then immediately into a half loop with a twist, known in coaster circles as an Immelman, which is fantastic on an inverted coaster as you really feel the G's through your feet. Next up is a zero-G roll, where the rider has the weightless feeling of zero-gravity flight.

        From there we head into a 'batwing', comprising two inversions before hitting the brakes briefly to take some speed out of the ride. Then, veering off to the right and a big vertiacal loop. Finally a trditional corkscrew loop before finding all too soon, we're at the end. Time to go on again!

        The overall ride time is about 1:50, although the actual ride time (after the top of chain lift) is more like 1:10.

        Verdict?

        Oh yes, top notch coaster heaven!

        ** Review also appears on my blog

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          04.10.2009 11:04
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          Come and have a go if you think you're tough enough

          This review is focused on the Wild Mouse roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure beach. The Wild Mouse is a bit of an unusual roller coaster.

          It's more of a genre than a specific coaster. The Wild Mouse (or Crazy Mouse, depending on the translation - there are many of them all over the world) is a tightly confined coaster, taking up a small physical space, and typically taking the form of a cuboid.

          This review is specifically about the Wild Mouse at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It's the kind of thing legend, or at least folklore is made of. It's been there since 1958, albeit with some modifications since then. But that makes it over 50 years old! And still running.

          The picture really doesn't do it justice. It doesn't look like all the fancy new-world coasters. It looks a bit drab. But looks can be very deceiving...

          It's probably the ride that made me a coaster-fanatic many, many years ago. I remember, as a boy, going on this particular ride again, and again and again. I've been back to Blackpool at various points in my life, and always make a point of having another go.
          Wild Mouse (Blackpool) Coaster Vital Statistics

          * Type of ride: Steel coaster
          * Top speed: 35 mph
          * Track length: 1266 feet
          * Riders: 2 in-line
          * Ride time: 1:30 minutes
          * Inversions: 0
          * Height requirement: 52 inches
          * Opened: 1958
          * Manufacturer: Frank Wright

          For the Blackpool version of the Wild mouse, you sit in a two-seater in-line car. Apparently this is unusual for the genre, but I think it really makes the ride. The car is very narrow ad your knees are against the side of the car, especially if you are the rear-rider.

          The continuing attraction of this is the sheer violence of the ride. This one is really not for either the faint-hearted or the infirm of joint.

          Just about every coaster in the world sells itself in an almost paranoid fashion; "Do not ride if you have... like anything, split ends or a cold." There are so many rides I've been on where I've thought, "Huh? They wasted money on that warning." Not so with the 'Mouse.

          DO NOT go on this if you have back/neck problems or probably any of the other things they talk about in the warnings. In fact, don't go on it. You almost certainly won't be able to handle it and come out walking straight, if at all.

          OK, with the warning over, what actually happens? Let me tell you.

          The compactness of the track is the key to this ride. The drops are not huge, but the majority of the turns are solid, right angle corners which throw the rider into the sides of the car = pain. The closeness to other rides and the compactness of the track vives the impression of speed, even though

          We start with a couple of right angles into the chain lift, to get some height for what is to come. A quick 90o brings us close to the neighbouring ride, followed by a drop, and a quick zig-zag, building up the impression of speed. Then a couple sharp turns and drops, followed by a quick jaunt over the queuing future-riders.

          As if your bones and joints were not already sufficiently pummeled, your masochistic trip still has a tad to go. Another mini chain-lift leads you into a couple of violent twists and a final semi-hidden dip, where you leave your seat momentarily, before 'almost crashing' into the structure again and a last right angle, neck-snapping turn brings us back to base.

          Verdict?

          Old skool coaster - rockin'!

          Review also appears on my blog.

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            30.08.2009 21:26
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            Big theme, ham actors, great coaster

            This review is solely about the Tower of Terror 'coaster', in Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Universal Studios) theme park, in Orlando Florida.

            To give it its full title, it's called "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror".

            If you're old enough, you may have seen The Twilight Zone, an American TV show hosted by Rod Serling which originally aired between 1959-64. I'm not old enough to have seen the original, but I remember enjoying the re-runs of this 'horror' show in the UK while I was young.

            This ride centers round the Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel featured in a specially commissioned mini-episode of the Twilight Zone show.

            The majority of your queuing is done outside the building (fast-pass available), in an old-style hotel garden with atmospheric mist sprays. The hotel itself, from the outside, has an old 1930s look to is and scorch marks on the outside, where the lift shafts should be.

            When you finally get inside the abandoned hotel, with authentic dust and cobwebs, you're almost at the start of the ride. s you wait the final few minutes, you can see the ride staff are kitted out in bell-hop outfits, adding to the authenticity of the hotel look-and-feel.

            First, you are led, en masse, into the library, where you are locked in, in the dark. Then a TV comes on in the corner of the room and you get to watch our old friend Ron telling you a bit of the history of the hotel, and how it was struck by lightning in the 1930's, causing an elevator and it's occupants to disappear into the twilight zone.

            At the end of the short film, another door opens and you join the queue again in what appears to be the boiler room of the hotel. Here, you await your journey on the 'service elevator'.
            Tower of Terror Coaster Vital Statistics

            * Type of ride: Sudden drop coaster
            * Height: 199 feet
            * Riders: 21 per 'service elevator'
            * Ride time: 3:10 minutes
            * Height requirement: 40 inches
            * Opened: July 1994
            * Manufacturer: Disney

            When your time comes, you're ushered in to an elevator, where there are three rows of seats. You can get the preferred front row by standing in the '1′ or '2′ positions at pre-boarding, if you get the option. Once you're in it's a lap-strap seatbelt for all, which doesn't seem much really. The bell-hop, in true wanna-be actor style will bid you farewell in their own unique style while closing the doors - some are quite imaginative, if a little hammy.

            Then the entire elevator then trundles into position, in the pitch darkness; first to a point to allow you to see the next part of the 'show', giving a bit more of the twilight zone experience, then to its final position for the commencement of the ride proper. You can tell the fun is about to begin when you see the image of an old TV 'closing down' to a vertical bar of light then compressing to a single dot in front of you. A few more clunks, in complete darkness, and we're good to go.

            This is a sudden drop coaster, with a difference. Well two differences really.

            1. The drops are fairly random and unpredictable, and between drops, you are hauled back upwards rapidly.
            2. They're not plain old gravity-drops, some are forced pull-drops, meaning you drop faster than gravity.

            These to differences make for a more interesting ride really, especially if your 8 year-old insists on going on again, and again, and again. You actually lift out of your seat and if, as I did, you leave your waterproof jackets on the floor, you will have to search for and retrieve them from somewhere else later.

            The doors on the side of the building open randomly while you are begin dropped and lifted too, which gives you a bit of perspective on the height you are being dropped from. This is even more impressive in the evening, when the rest of the park's lights are on, so I'd recommend trying it in the dark too.

            The final time we rode this coaster on our recent trip there was a huge thunder and lightning storm in progress. As we neared the doors to go on the ride, my 8 year-old turned to me and said, "This is just like the movie", with a grin. That's my boy!

            Definitely recommended.

            ** This review also appears on my blog.

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              28.08.2009 17:25
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              Well worth a shot, if you can stad the queue

              **This review is about the rollercoaster "Expedition Everest" at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort specifically. **

              The Expedition Everest coaster is in Disney's Animal Kingdom (in the Asia section), Orlando Florida. To give it its full title, it's called "Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain".

              Another heavily themed ride, as you'd expect in Disney, with the queue management area kitted out like a base-camp in the Himalayas with plenty of lore about the Yeti on the walls.

              When you get to the front of the queue, you can catch a glimpse of the trains and can see that it's only a lap-bar holding you in. It makes you wonder if this is all going to be a bit tame, but not to worry...

              Expedition Everest Coaster Vital Statistics

              * Type of ride: Steel 'standard' coaster
              * Height: 112 feet
              * First drop: 80 feet
              * Top speed: 60 mph (forward) 40 mph (backward)
              * Track length: 4424 feet
              * Riders: 34 (5 cars with 6 seats, last car with 4)
              * Ride time: 2:30 minutes
              * Inversions: 0
              * Max G:Force: 2.2 (forward), 3 (backward)
              * Height requirement: 44 inches
              * Opened: 07/04/2006
              * Manufacturer: Vekoma International

              The ride has a single rider queue as well as a fast-pass queue, where you can take a ticket and come back at a pre-determined time to ride and avoid the wait. The coaster cars are styled like a little mountain train and this is probably one of the few coasters where being at the front is a plus.

              If you want the front seat, there are three ways to achieve this:

              1. Wait in the queue for something like 40 minutes in our case and when you get to the front, declare that you want a front seat. The operative will put you in the fastpass queue where you can wait some more for your front row seat.
              2. Use your fastpass ticket to go in the fastpass lane, skipping the normal wait, then wait a little for your front row.
              3. If you don't have a fastpass, go in the single rider lane, skipping the normal wait, declare that you want a front seat. The operative will put you in the fastpass queue where you can wait for your front row seat.

              The ride starts off with a gentle swoop from the platform off to the right, followed by little chain-pull to get an initial bit of height. Then we go down a little gravity incline and follow a gentle left hand curve into the main chain-pull incline to get up to where it all starts.

              From the top of the incline, the train swoops down and to the right, but it's not a huge drop, so you're left wondering, "What's going on?". Until you go through a little tunnel and head upwards to the sight of a mangled track, where the train stops momentarily on the slope. If you're in the front seat, you get a lovely view of the Animal Kingdom park for a few seconds. Meanwhile, behind the train, a little bit of fancy points work automatically reroutes the track, then it's brakes off and we're off, backwards, into a dark tunnel.

              Now you realise why we needed all that height, as the train plummets backwards and into a vicious 3.0g horizontal loop - no inversions on this ride - but, given you're going backwards in the dark, it's hard to tell the difference. That g-force is impressive. A couple more bends and the train heads up a little incline, coming to a halt with a little bit of light in sight. We are then treated to a projected shadow-outline of the Yeti ripping up the train tracks, while another automatic points-shift, in front of us this time, sets us up to complete the rest of our journey in a forwards direction.

              Brakes off again and we are treated to a mini-drop, coming out of the tunnel, followed by a couple of horizontal loops which are not quite the strength of the backwards one, but good nonetheless. Finally we head into another tunnel for a brief glimpse at the animatronic Yeti before returning to the platform.

              Recommended; my 8-year old's favourite ride in all of Florida, with the 'backwards in the dark' part giving something out of the ordinary for the more coaster-aware of you.

              ** Review also appears on my blog

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                25.08.2009 21:33
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                Good protection, good fit, good job!

                I may have mentioned in a previous review; I love my MacBook.
                I'm a convert from PC land, and perhaps I'm in danger turning into a bit of a Mac-bore, or evangelist, but I really am impressed with the whole Mac experience.

                I am obviously keen, having spent all that dosh on my nice classic (for classic, read shiny white) MacBook, to keep it in pristine condition. So decided to get a case for it, to give it a bit of protection.

                I decided against the whole over the shoulder type, with pockets and such, for humphing around as, being only 13.3" in size, I reckoned I'd be sticking it in another bag if I was taking it somewhere. I was more looking for the light sleeve type to offer some general protection when sticking it in the drawer, down the side of the sofa or in another bag.

                So, when my first Amazon voucher came through from Dooyoo, I knew exactly what I was going to spend it on.

                Now, as you'd expect, I'm a stylish kind of guy, so I was looking for something stylish and after hunting about a bit, I plumped for the Be.ez 13.3 LArobe (pictured above). I assume the Be.ez is pronounced 'be easy'.
                It looks good and ticked the boxes for the level of protection offered.

                I got mine from Amazon (of course, because of the voucher) and it cost me £19.38 inc Post and Packing. I reckon this is a tad pricey, for instance there are some available in the £5 region if you look, but neither is it the most expensive in class. Delivery was speedy; ordered on the Wednesday night, delivered on Saturday, registered post.

                The technical bit:
                - It's made out of "Low Resilience Polyurethane (LRPu)", black on the outside, and coloured on the inside. Mine is green on the inside, or "Wasabi" according to the blurb.
                - The thickness of the memory foam is 5mm. Memory foam means when you press into it, it leaves an indent for a short while before returning to its original shape. This is good for shock absorbing should you drop anything on it, or indeed it on anything.
                - It has a rigid piping as an edging on both the top and bottom of the case so it gives it a little bit extra protection from edge knocks.
                - The zip has tough plastic teeth and two metal closer tags. The zip covers the top end and halfway down each of the sides.

                I particularly like the zip like this, because it means you have to actually take the laptop out of the case to use it, and put it fully in to close it. This means you won't have any of those not zipped up moments when the laptop comes sliding out onto the floor when you least expect it.

                There is a backwards 'e' logo in the bottom right corner of each side of the case, matching the colour of the inside of the case.

                Despite some of the reviews on Amazon, I found this case fits a 13.3" MacBook perfectly. It does not move about inside at all; it really is quite snug. I can only assume the reviewers bought, or received a larger size case than they thought.

                The MacBook feels nice and secure in this case and it's comfortable to carry, adding very little weight to the ensemble.

                For info, the manufacturer does many sizes of these cases, for larger laptops, and handhelds like the PSP and they come in other funky colours too

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                  03.08.2009 22:48
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                  A great coaster

                  My recent visit to Florida re-established my love of roller-coasters. My youngest has inherited the coaster-gene, so looks like I'll have a new coaster-buddy for some time to come.

                  The newest coaster in Florida at time of writing is Manta, at SeaWorld Orlando, which opened on 21 May 2009.

                  I rode this coaster on 6 July 2009, less than 2 months after opening. Unfortunately the height requirement ruled out my new buddy, so as a single rider, I braved the 40 minute queue in the baking sun.

                  The queuing was reasonably pleasant with a large part of it indoors in a sea-themed cavern with a very impressive built-in aquarium to keep you occupied while you wait. As seems to be common these days, the queue separated into 'front row' and 'other'. At the risk of starting a heated debate I, in common with lots of other coaster-freaks, will opt for the back seat most of the time. You guys waiting an extra twenty minutes for a front seat? I laugh at you. In this instance, being a single-rider it was fairly simple to get to the back seat row and eagerly wait my turn.

                  Manta Vital Statistics

                  * Type of ride: Steel 'flying' coaster
                  * Height: 140 feet
                  * First drop: 113 feet
                  * Top speed: 56 mph
                  * Track length: 3359 feet
                  * Riders: 96 (3x trains, each with 8 rows of 4 seats)
                  * Ride time: 2:35 minutes**
                  * Inversions: 4
                  * Height requirement: 54 inches
                  * Opened: 21/05/2009
                  * Manufacturer: Bolliger and Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland

                  For the uninitiated, a 'flying' coaster requires you to sit in a moulded seat, pull a fixed harness down over your front and clip it to the seat using a small belt/buckle. Your legs are then clamped in place using ankle cuffs, a bit like those seats where James Bond gets caught by the baddie. Before the coaster starts, the whole seat-row ensembles are rotated though 90 degrees and locked parallel to the track so you are facing the ground. The 'Air' coaster at Alton Towers, UK was my first 'flying' coaster some years ago.

                  The ride starts off with the usual ratchety climb to the impressive 140 feet peak and, as you climb you of course wave to the watching gallery below, since you're facing downwards. The view of the park is as impressive as it is brief when the clacking sound stops and the weight of the coaster takes you over the apex of the climb. With a twist and a glide, the coaster hurtles down towards top speed and into the the first and main inversion, a full vertical loop with the trains on the inside, exerting substantial g-forces, pushing you back into your seat. At this point, you realise this ride is a bit special.

                  There are then a variety of twists and turns, including the next two inversions, both in an anti-clockwise corkscrew style before a mini-respite and a touch of brakes to slow us down for the more 'scenic' phase of the ride.

                  So, into a couple of twists, followed by a swoop over the pond where a wing-dip is simulated with a spray from the surface of the water and we head into our final clockwise corkscrew inversion to finish.

                  ** The 'official' ride time includes the initial climb and final trail round to the start again, neither of which I think really count. Actual ride time, from the end of the climb to the 'brakes on' at the end is approx 1 minute.

                  Highly recommended.

                  This review also appears in my blog

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                    31.07.2009 23:13
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                    Excellent coaster

                    I first went on this coaster back in 2003, with my eldest last time we were in Florida, and again this time in 2009.

                    I didn't have to wait very long at all to get onto this one. As a single rider it was fairly easy to get onto the back row of the coaster, the position of choice for the true coaster-fan.

                    Kraken Vital Statistics

                    * Type of ride: Steel 'floorless' coaster
                    * Height: 149 feet
                    * First drop: 145 feet
                    * Top speed: 65 mph
                    * Track length: 4177 feet
                    * Riders: 32 (8 rows of 4 seats)
                    * Ride time: 2:02 minutes**
                    * Inversions: 7
                    * Max G:Force: 3.9
                    * Height requirement: 54 inches
                    * Opened: 01/06/2000
                    * Manufacturer: Bolliger and Mabillard, Monthey, Switzerland

                    For the uninitiated, a 'floorless' coaster has you sitting in a moulded seat with your legs dangling, the wheels and track are still below you, unlike an 'inverted' coaster where your legs dangle but the seats hang below the track. The 'Nemesis' coaster at Alton Towers, UK and 'Montu' at Busch Gardens are inverted coasters.

                    Kraken kicks off in the normal manner with the usual clack-clack-clack climb to peak at a not-to-be-sniffed-at 149 feet, giving a great view of the park below before twisting into its intial drop of 145 feet. Straight out of this is the first vertical inversion, then with a slight twist and time to draw breath straight into a second vertical loop. Plenty of Gs involved so far and you know there's more to come.

                    Next, we have a clockwise corkscrew roll, before things get a bit messy with a twisty upwards loop and another roll into a swoop below ground level followed by a vertical loop and below ground level again before some touch of brakes leading into the second act.

                    Coming out of the brakes section, we dip below ground level again, up into a final vertical loop, dipping briefly below the surface again before popping up and diving underground and resurfacing into a final clockwise corkscrew inversion to finish.

                    If I could fault anything it would be that they could have 'themed' it up a bit around the underground concrete 'bunkers' as only the last underground one was made to look like rocks and had the Kraken draped around it.

                    ** The 'official' ride time includes the initial climb and final trail round to the start again, neither of which I think really count. Actual ride time, from the end of the climb to 'brakes on' at the end is approx 1 minute.

                    Highly recommended.

                    This review also features on my blog

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                      19.07.2009 22:55
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                      If you're there, you just gotta!

                      This is a roller-coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Orlando, Florida. It is also known as just the 'Rock 'n' Roller Roller Coaster'.

                      I first went on this coaster back in 2003, with my eldest last time we were in Florida, and a couple of times again this time in 2009 with my new first-time 8-year-old coaster buddy.

                      This is a heavily themed ride, featuring a lot of music-related imagery, loud music; Aerosmith of course, and Rock 'n' Roll memorabilia all around the ride. Apparently, in this attraction, the coaster was built first and then the building was constructed around it.

                      There's a fair bit of preamble to this ride, once you get past the main part of the queue of course. You are shepherded into a large room made to look like a resording studio and, playing on a video-wall through a glass wall a short introduction to set up the concept of the ride is played out.

                      A sound engineer is mixing some Aerosmith music under the watchful eye of Steve Tyler and other members of the band. They, of course, notice the crowd watching them which sparks some interaction with their 'fans'. Then their manager appears, telling them they are late for the concert and attempts to usher them into a waiting limo. Steve insists that all his 'fans' get backstage passes and a lift to the gig, and it's on to another queue and the ride itself.

                      The cars for the coaster are made to look like a stretch-limo and the coaster runs almost exclusively in the dark, with the exception of various street-sign simulations giving a little illumination.
                      Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Vital Statistics

                      * Type of ride: Steel enclosed 'launched' coaster
                      * Height: 80 feet
                      * First drop: n/a
                      * Top speed: 60 mph (in 2.8 seconds)
                      * Track length: 3403 feet
                      * Riders: 24 (6 cars with 2 pairs of seats each)
                      * Ride time: 1:22 minutes
                      * Inversions: 3
                      * Max G:Force: 4.5
                      * Height requirement: 48inches
                      * Opened: 29/07/1999
                      * Manufacturer: Vekoma International

                      For the uninitiated, a 'launched' coaster uses a catapult or, in this case, a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) mechanism which uses electro-magnets to accelerate the cars to the maximum speed, as opposed to 'traditional' coasters that start by pulling the cars to the top of a steep climb.

                      With the coaster being in the dark, its difficult to give an accurate run-through of the ride itself, but suffice to say it's not the gentlest of coasters. You are generally unaware of what's coming up, and the loud music and flashing signs go some way to disorient you a bit, meaning you don't get a chance to brace yourself for the turns, so you do tend to get thrown about a bit. So, follow the guidelines and keep your head back in the seat.

                      You are accelerated from the zero to nearly 60mph in less than 3 seconds. The g-forces are quite breathtaking, apparently greater than that exerted on astronauts during launch. No sooner have you drawn breath from that and you're straight into a vertical loop. Then, with the music blaring in your ears from the in-seat speakers you navigate through lots of dips, twists and turns. I recognised a corkscrew roll in there too and there's apparently a cobra roll in there too making up the third inversion.

                      Then we're back, safe and sound to a red carpet exit into the merchandise area where you can spend your hard-earned dollars on Disney and Aerosmith branded goodies.

                      Highly recommended, for the acceleration alone.

                      ** Review also features on my blog

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                      • Apple MacBook MB403B/A / Laptop / 82 Readings / 74 Ratings
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                        23.06.2009 00:02
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                        Bit of an inital culture shock easily outweighed by the plusses

                        I got my MacBook a month ago and, despite having been a heavy PC user for the last 20+ years, I'm a convert. It's just great.

                        I got it because of all the good stories I'd heard about them; usability, security, availabiity of applications and it's stylish looking too, not like the lumpy almost invariably black Windows laptops out there. It's not cheap at £700 you can get a lot of PC for that, but I really like my Mac, so I'm not going to linger on that side of things.

                        The 13" screen is crystal clear, the keyboard feels nice and it doesn't take long to get used to the trackpad style mouse. It's super fast to boot up and shut down, less than 30 seconds from 'off' and probably less than 5 from 'sleep' mode. That's stunning compared to my other machines that can take anything from 5 to 20 minutes to do the same.

                        It was initially a bit of a leap of faith to go from the familiar surroundings and user interface of Windows to OS X, the Mac operating system. Additionally, I had built up a fair bit of knowledge and collection of software applications for Windows too. But, one month in, it's been great, with very little issues at all.

                        Setting up wireless access, finding and installing apps; all very straight forward, no issues at all, no 'Blue-Screen' no need for Anti-Virus. And there's a stack of unambiguous help out there, that works first time.

                        So, for anyone looking to jump to Mac, fear not, there are equivalents for pretty much everything you need, many of them free. So here's a 'top ten' of apps, effectively the 'essentials' for day to day work/play.

                        I know there are alternatives to all of the below, but these are the ones I plumped for. One prevailing factor influenced the choices below; they're all open source/freeware. My budget for toys is dry following the arrival of the MacBook, so it's cheapies or freebies for me for a while.

                        So here goes:

                        1. Browser (Firefox)
                        With the advent of Firefox V3.0 (FF3), I was finally teased away from Internet Explorer (IE) on the PC. The time taken to develop css sites and make them work cross-platform was hugely reduced, I was a convert. I'm sure Safari is truly great, but I'll be sticking to FF for dev for the foreseeable future.

                        2. Messaging client (MSN Messenger for Mac)
                        A no brainer really, need to retain the continuity with my previous MSN contacts. That said, I've hardly used it since I installed it.

                        3. Twitter client (TweetDeck)|
                        If you're into Twitter, you need a client. This one fits the bill nicely, lets you group your followees and has a nice user interface. It has a few nice features, like url shortening and picture display.

                        4. Music (Spotify)
                        Obviously iTunes features quite heavily on the Mac OS platform. And, with the iPhone, you need it to sync and for app download, which is fine, but only works for music you already own. That's where Spotify comes in; Spotify gives you free access to the music you don't own. It's like having a radio where you're the DJ.

                        5. Fonts
                        Gotta have fonts. In fact, gotta have loads of fonts. The Mac comes with over 100, covering the main requirements. But now I've extended that a little to include some of the more funky ones. I'll leave it to you to search for them yourself.

                        6. HTML Editor (Smultron)
                        I've been using EditPlus for years now, it's a great little editor. Unfortunately EditPlus is a Windows only app, so I needed an equivalent. The EditPlus Wiki recommends this one (amongst others), so I've gone for that. Still to try it out, but it has a good reputation, so expecting some great things from this. No idea where the name comes from.

                        7. FTP Client (Cyberduck)
                        To upload files for bimbogami, I need an FTP client. Was using File Explorer on Windows previously, so reckoned I'd better get something proper for the Mac. Cyberduck, despite the bizarrely unrelated name, fits the bill nicely (see what I did there?).

                        8. Image Editor (Gimp)
                        GIMP is a bitmap image editing app. So far I've only used it for cropping and re-sizing, but from the menus it looks as though it can do pretty much everything I've ever done in Photoshop in the past. BTW, GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, nothing to do with fetishists, so they say.

                        9. Image Editor 2 (InkScape)
                        This one's for vector graphics. not had much time to play about with it yet, but it comes highly recommended and on first impression, it looks pretty good.

                        10. Productivity (OpenOffice)
                        I hate calling it that. Word processor, Spreadsheet and presentation, otherwise known as MS Office. Well, I've plumped for the free, compatible OpenOffice. Not had to do much more than open and update a few MS Office things so far, but it seems OK.

                        ** Edited from a post on my blog **

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                        • Twitter.com / Internet Site / 124 Readings / 117 Ratings
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                          03.06.2009 14:58
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                          A real mine of information if you stick with it

                          There are lots of people prepared to talk about and pass their opinions on Twitter and I think they broadly fall into two camps; those that think it's great and those that just don't get it at all.

                          Personally, I was in the latter camp for a while but was coaxed across by a friend and I'm now firmly in the 'great' camp, for now.

                          For those of you not aware of what Twitter is, let me explain a little bit.

                          It's one of the latest 'big things' on the internet, at time of writing, to rapidly gain users and prominence from the mainstream media. In the past, sites like MySpace, YouTube, FaceBook and Bebo have all briefly held this title. Like all these things, I expect the fuss and media attention will die down in a few months and the faithful will remain using it, while it will drop off the radar of those looking for the 'next big thing'.

                          The idea is that you can publish a message of up to 140 characters at any time, from anywhere. The original premise was to answer the question "What are you doing?", and indeed the question is still there on the main Twitter site (http://www.twitter.com), but the 140 character message has evolved to be used for much more than that. For Facebook users (or even going back a bit, MSN Messenger users) this is a stand-alone equivalent of the 'status' concept and indeed you can update your Facebook status directly from Twitter if you set it up that way.

                          It's free to join, all you need is to make up a suitable nickname, fill in the registration form and you're off. You can put your messages up as often as you like. But that's only part of it, You'll want to see other people's messages too, won't you? That's where 'following' comes in. if your friends have Twitter accounts you can follow them, if you know of celebrities that use twitter, you can follow them and you can follow PR, News, Bloggers, Shops, TV Shows etc. lots of people are doing it. Once you're following people you'll see a steady stream of their updates coming through. Some of them may even follow you back. You may find people following you briefly and then 'un-following' you - don't get paranoid, some are marketers just looking for follow-backs or maybe you're not tweeting the kind of thing that interests them.

                          Because the Twitter guys have made the technology very open, and they have published the tools necessary to access the information, there are a myriad of Twitter Clients available now that you can use to Tweet (ie. publish your message) or view other people's tweets. There are loads available on the main computer platforms; Windows, Mac and Linux and many mobile phones too. Or you can just stick with the main Twitter site. I've found that the main site isn't that great for hardcore Tweeting or following and the format breaks a bit, so it doesn't look great. So I prefer to use TweetDeck on my Windows and Mac desktops and Tweetie on my iPhone.

                          If you're the kind of person that has a blog, or keeps a diary, then it's the chance to publish, quickly, your thoughts, state of mind, something that's happened to you, a joke that's sprung to mind, an interesting link you've found, a cause you're promoting, your opinion on something even a picture of something. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

                          If you're the kind of person that likes to keep up on breaking news or celebs or technical breakthroughs and the like, then this is a constant stream of information that you can choose (or not) to dip in and out of during your day. And, for me, therein lies the key. If you're following a couple of hundred people, there's no point in trying to keep up with *everything* that comes through, there's too much. So, in a spare moment, I'll jump in, read a dozen or so and if something catches my eye, I may follow it, a bit like browsing the internet or dipping into a magazine or newspaper - you don't read every word in a newspaper, you jump about to the bits that interest you.

                          I choose to follow certain specific 'people', for example;
                          - My own friends that are on Twitter
                          - Information tweeters; Sky News, BBC Tech, Technical Websites
                          - Humorous tweeters; Lee Boardman, Stephen Fry, David Baddiel, Jimmy Carr
                          - Celebs - Tim Lovejoy, Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand,
                          - Musos; Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker (Blink 182), Pete Wenz (Fall Out Boy) and Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction) tweet a lot

                          There are thousands more out there - go look, but be warned, there's lots of fakers in celeb land, so use a site like http://www.valebrity.com to weed out the real celebs from the fakers (what's the point in pretending you're a celeb?)

                          If you're the kind of person that thinks people that keep blogs need to get a life, are happy to get your news later from radio or TV, have no interest in the inane babbling of celebs, then perhaps you should steer clear...

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                            30.05.2009 01:01
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                            Puzzling delight

                            Now, before I begin I'll state for the record that I love Su Doku, or more commonly Sudoku, it' my kind of puzzle. I like logic-based puzzles that require a bit of brainpower to solve. I feel a bit of challenge in them, against myself, to see how quikly I can solve them.

                            For anyone that is not familiar with Sudoku puzzles, here's a brief overview:

                            The puzzle presents itself as a grid of squares, nine rows by nine columns with the whole thing sub-divided into nine 3 x 3 squares.

                            The object of the puzzle is that you have to fill in all the cells with the numbers 1 to 9. The catch is that you cannot repeat a number in any row, column or 3 x 3 box. Some numbers already pre-filled in the cells to get you started.

                            There are some simple techniques to getting you started and as you get more proficient, you will start to work out other, more complex methods of determining the numbers.

                            The Times newspaper carried this type of puzzle from the early days after making its way across from Japan. This particular book is a collection of puzzles from the Times' compiler Wayne Gould. Wayne is apparently an ex-High Court judge that does this for a living now. It's the first of a series of books of Sudoku puzzles from the Times. When I say series, they're not sequential so you can get any or all of them in any order you want.

                            I particularly like the Times puzzles because I believe they are hand-compiled (rather then computer generated) which adds another little dimension to it if you're a seasoned puzzler. So you tend to start off with a specific pattern of the pre-completed numbers and as you complete the puzzles you think 'aha, clever'.

                            These books suit both beginners and seasoned Sudoku puzzlers as they are all split into four sections of difficulty; mild, easy, hard and fiendish, giving the novice somewhere to start and work up from, and still keep the gurus happy. There are a total of 100 puzzles in each book and it's a handy, amall novel size, so easy to carry about. Under a fiver each from Amazon at time of writing.

                            If you like a logical challenge, this kind of puzzle is right up your street, or column, or row.

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                            • Rubik's Cube / Puzzle / 87 Readings / 81 Ratings
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                              25.05.2009 23:11
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                              Excellent, challenging fun

                              I'm old enough to have been around when the Rubik's cube came out first time around. It got all kinds of awards at the time and when it comes down to it, it's a simple concept that's been very well executed - which is generally a good combination. The mechanics at the time were ingenious, to allow you to rotate the sides of the cube independently in three planes.

                              The standard Rubik's cube is a 3x3x3 cube with six different-coloured faces. After a while, variations on the theme came out, 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 cubes, spheres, hexagons, you name it, but all built on the same principle and similar mechanism.

                              Back in the day, *everyone* had a cube, but not that many people could do it, until the books and solutions started appearing and the competitions were held. I remember my Dad coaxing me to enter a competition hosted by the Daily Mirror and I went along to the Edinburgh heat. I didn't even make it into the top 10 with my time of 43 seconds (on stage against an electronic eye and massive timer). The winner took 23 seconds if I recall correctly.

                              There's been a bit of a revival of the product in recent years. With pricing generally under seven quid a whole new generation can be tortured by it.

                              Of course now you can get the solutions off the internet, using all sorts of annotation styles, including arrows or letters (D L D' L' D' F' D F) to indicate the layer and direction to turn. You can even get video tutorials on YouTube.

                              So there's no excuses not to be able to do it now.

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                              • Blackberry 8700g / Smartphone / 36 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                                25.05.2009 18:55
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                                Wouldn't be without it

                                I have a Blackberry 8700g for work use, by that I mean issued by my employer for business use. This means that unfortunately I cannot pass opinion here on device costs or tariffs.

                                That said, this device is a fantastic handset. It's pretty much bulletproof in terms of stability; I think I've had to battery-out reset it only once in six months of pretty-much continuous use.

                                I use it heavily for eMail (I receive around 150-250 eMails per day on average). I do a lot of eMail handling using my desktop PC but whioe on the move and attending meetings it's invaluable. It allows me to respond quickly to questions and keep things ticking over when I'm not at my desk.

                                I am on the Vodafone network with the Blackberry and my own personal phone and find that I consistently get a better signal on the Blackberry.

                                Call quality is clear and it has a speaker facility, which means you can use it as an impromptu conference call device.

                                The colour screen and is crisp and clear and I find very easy to read. The user interface is very easy to get the hang of, which most things driven from the scroll-wheel on the right hand side of the device.

                                The keyboard looks like it has very small keys, and it has, but even with grown-up fingers like mine, I managed to get the hang of double-thumb typing fairly quickly. One tip - look up and learn the keyboard shortcuts if you want to save yourself some time scrolling through lots of eMails - 'T' & 'B' for top and bottom, and 'N' and 'P' for next and previous saves you jumping in and out of eMails. there are others, but it depends what you need to save time on really.

                                Battery life is good and even after having the phone for six months I get up to 4 days out of it between charges and that's with reasonably heavy usage.

                                There is a wealth of applications you can download to the device but I only use two regularly;
                                1. MSN Messenger, which is a good implementation of the desktop application and saves time when playing eMail pingpong when on the go and
                                2. TwitterBerry, which is a reasonably featured Twitter client - there are probably some better featured clients out there, but this one does the job just fine for me.

                                Drawbacks;
                                It's not very good at formatting emails containing tables and I'm not particularly impressed with the attached document handling in eMail, but I may just be a bit fussy on that front. But I'm happy to live with that and my guys know to down-tech their eMails for Blackberry viewing if need be.
                                Also, no camera, so limits your Twitter activity to text only.
                                A little bit bulky, but you kind of expect that from this purpose kind of device, could be a bit thinner and maybe a little narrower, but I guess RIM have addressed that criticism with their newer models.

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                                  24.05.2009 10:54
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                                  Excellent, challenging fun

                                  OK, I'll start on the assumption that you already know a bit about Sudoku, otherwise you wouldn't be dreaming of trying something called Killer Sudoku, right?

                                  Killer is a great variation on the Sudoku theme, and for anyone new to this genre of puzzles, I'll explain a little how it works:

                                  You still have a 9x9 grid to complete and each row, column and 3x3 box must contain the numbers 1-9, that much is similar, however Killer brings a bit of arithmetic into the challenge.

                                  The first thing you will notice when you look at the grid is that there are no numbers in the grid to get you started. But there ARE dotted lines around groups of boxes in the grid and each dotted group pf cells has a number at the top left of the group. This is where the arithmetic comes in. The numbers in each group of dotted boxes sum to the little number in the top left of that dotted group.

                                  As with normal Sudoku, there are a number of simple techniques to get you started.

                                  First you should be aware that the numbers 1 to 9 add up to 45. So each row or column, or 3x3 box must add up to 45. Likewise two rows, columns or boxes will add up to 90, etc.

                                  Next, there are combinations of numbers that only add up to one thing, so if you see a 3 in a dotted box containing 2 cells, it must be a 1 & 2, likewise a 4 is a 1 & 3 and 1 will be a 9 & 8. You get the idea. There are other groups of 3 and 4 cells that only add up to one number, but I'll leave you to work those out.

                                  So, to get you started look for the above and see if combinations of them force certain cells to have only one possible value, and work from there.

                                  As in other Times Sudoku series books, the puzzles are all created by hand so have a bit of flair to them, comared to books that have "a million sudokus" in them. Also, they are split into degrees of difficulty to build up your confidence in doing them. All in all, very enjoyable.

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