Archive for April, 2009

Cruise Ships

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I am currently on my third cruise. But I’m not on vacation – I’m attending a conference -  the Fourth Annual Foundations of Digital Games conference. Cruises are interesting places in general but conferences on them add an extra element of different things. But I’m just going to talk about the shipboard aspect of things.

First of there is the food. The big thing of the food is that it is pretty much available all the time. Since it is all paid for you very quickly start to thing nothing of eating just because it is available. Want some ice cream? Serve yourself. Want some pizza? Just tell the guy how many pieces and what kind. The same with a lot of other things. And that is just the snacking.

Meals? Can’t decide between two entrees or deserts or appetizers? Just order both! Needless to say I am over eating. I’m trying to offset it by avoiding the elevators. Walking up and down 5 to 7 floors is undoubtedly helpful but probably not enough.

Rooms are the next thing. Rooms on board ship are a lot like hotel rooms but smaller. Most people don’t spend much time in them. The beds are comfortable. There are desks and a refrigerator. There are showers and bathrooms. Now of this is very big. This year for the first time I have a room with a balcony. Very cool but again I haven’t spent much time on it. I might if I was looking for alone time but I don’t think many people come on a cruise for alone time. Still it is cool to tell people you have a balcony.

There is a lot of entertainment on board. There are live shows and movies, swimming pools, and special activities for kids. I’m on a Disney ship so there are all sorts of Disney movies available. I can understand watching a movie late at night on a huge outdoor screen. But watching a movie indoors, during the day when there are pools and other outdoor activities I’m not so sure I understand. And just how many people are watching all those movies on TV in their rooms? But I guess it doesn’t cost much to do it and if people are going to stay in their rooms there should be something on TV.

I’m not sure what regular people do on cruises when at sea though. I’m attending conference sessions, taking long lunches with interesting people from the conference and in my spare time I am reading books while eating too much food. This summer I am taking a vacation on a ship. I guess I’ll know more then.

Fast Food Frustration

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

I’m on the road a lot and pretty often I get hungry while driving. It’s pretty hard not to when one is taking 5-6 hour drives or when one is rushing from one appointment to the next with little time between them. So occasionally I stop (or drive through) a fast food restaurant to pick up a snack.

Now I know all the bad things about the food. The quality is often not so good and the calorie counts are high and blah blah blah. But they are cheap (relatively) filling and sometimes you just need to get some food in your system. My biggest problem with them lately is the service though.

Not that it is slow but that they get the orders wrong. I’ve had triple Whoppers (yeah I know) come with only two meat patties. Or missing ketchup. Or added stuff that I asked to be left off. Or order hot chocolate and get hot coffee. Some of the errors, like the coffee, mean that the order is inedible for me.

Yesterday I ordered a bacon burger that turned out to be completely someone else’s order. No bacon and a bunch of stuff on it that I don’t like. Fortunately I had decided to eat in rather than drive through. It seems like fairly often after driving through and getting on down the road and finding out that the order is wrong. Far too late to turn back and get it corrected. There seems like little one can do about this.

Yesterday’s problem was resolved as they always are when you bring things back and show them the problem. So it is an annoyance when you eat in but it is still a big deal when you drive through.

Oh and did I mention that the deciding factor between eating in and driving through was that they had a sign that said “free wi-fi inside” in the window? There was wi-fi but my laptop could not connect to it for reasons that are lost to me. Somehow I didn’t think that the people behind the counter would be able to help me. And by that time I had pretty much decided that I had lost enough time at this one location to stay. Had the staff gotten my order right and given me a bit more confidence I might have tried to get the problem fixed. That would have meant better satisfaction for the next customer and been a good thing for the store. But somehow fixing their problems had fallen to a low priority for me.

I’m not sure what the answer is for these places with regards to getting orders right. They have to hire people smart enough to do the job but not so smart that they get too bored to do the job right. A fine line. And few of the employees seem to feel invested in the company or store enough to take real pride in their work. It’s tough. But I sure do wish they could get my orders right. Is that really too much to ask?

Reasonable Common Sense Laws

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

I really start to worry these days when someone uses the terms reasonable and common sense to describe laws. It reminds me of the story of the Emperors’ new clothes. In that story people were told that only smart people with good taste could see the clothing and no one wanted to “admit” that they were stupid or had bad taste. The same is true with the terms reasonable and common sense.

So today when someone says that a law is a reasonable and common sense answer to some problem I immediately assume that the law is neither reasonable or common sense. Instead I assume someone is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and to distract them from the parts of the law that must certainly be either unreasonable or lacking in common sense.

Now in many cases the law may seem reasonable or a part of common sense to the people proposing it. After all few people propose things they believe are unreasonable or illogical. But if they have to announce those attributes than they must clearly understand that others will not share those opinions. So I see their claims as an attempt to short circuit arguments and a de facto admission that they have a weak case. It’s like waving a red flag announcing “this law has huge problems!”

But people keep doing it. Why? Maybe they think most people are stupid and will fall for it. Maybe they’re right. But its pretty scary.

What question do you ask?

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

So I have been watching movies about professional killers tonight. I figure there are two kinds of people who watch those movies. One kind asks themselves “how could anyone do that in real life?” The other sort of person asks “I wonder if I could do that job?”

The first question is probably the most common question. After all killing is something we all pretty much understand is wrong. We also know that we’d feel guilty about killing innocent people. And of course there is who whole punishment thing. So we wonder what sort of a person could overcome all those natural instincts, all that lifetime of learning that killing is wrong, and all that potential punishment – internal and external – and go out and kill people for money.

And then there are the people, and I have no idea how many there are out there, who ask themselves if they could do it. In a sense it is the same question as the first question with  one difference. The difference is that they are really asking if they are the sort of person who could kill for money. I figure that most people answer the question in the negative. What does it mean to ask that question though? That’s not something I’m sure about. What  do you think?