The Expeditious Use of Fast Passes at Disney

{This originally appeared on my Facebook Page, but since vacation time is coming, and people sometimes ask me for tips on the parks, I thought I’d re-post it here.}

Walt Disney World has a feature available to every guest that allows you to bypass the long wait times for their popular attractions, and move to almost the head of the line. With a little planning and some willingness to walk, you can spend the entire day without much time in lines.

How do these passes work?

In most cases you scan your ticket in a machine, and a pass with a specific time to return and bypass the line is issued. Normally these will say that you are to return during a certain hour, but at some parks the only time that matters is the earlier time. That is, if you are to return between 1:00pm and 2:00pm, the only time the attendants look for is that you are coming after the 1:00pm time. This is very helpful if you push your times pretty close.

For instance, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios you could head for the Tower of Terror and get a fastpass and then hurry over to the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, ride it once, and have the urge to ride again. If you ride again, you will be pushing the range of time on your fastpass for the Tower. You could miss that window if the park is busy. But as long as you come after the earliest time listed you should be able to get in the line.

How do you get the most out of the Fastpass?

First, decide what you want to do multiple times. These will be priority Fastpass goals for you. Enter the park and go directly to the fastpass dispenser. After you get your pass, look at the times. When can you return to ride? And more importantly, when can you obtain another Fastpass?

Now, if the normal line wait time is acceptable to you could choose to enter it. Or, if another high priority attraction is close, you might go there while waiting for your pass time. For example, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom you could head right for Expedition Everest to get the Fastpass, and then decide whether to ride then, or head down to Dinosaur.

Be aware that some attractions fill up fast. Epcot’s Soarin’ is very popular, and waiting until after lunch to get a pass will most times result in disappointment.

As you are heading to use your first pass, see if you have passed the time where you can get another pass. If so, it may be worth your while to swing by another attraction for a pass before using the current one.

Even if it means going across the park, the time spent walking to get a pass will be more enjoyable than standing in line, especially late in the day when your feet may be hurting. Would you rather be walking through a creative and entertaining environment or standing in a maze of rope, chain, and fence packed with people?

With regard to lunch, after using a pass, select the next pass attraction and get one. Then enjoy a leisurely lunch waiting for your time to arrive. Hopefully, you have chosen to ride something that doesn’t make you motion sick.

It can be annoying to see a line of people go into the attraction immediately even though you have been waiting for over an hour. Taking of advantage of the passes available to you can take some of that edge off. Using them effectively can mean a more fun-filled outing at your favorite theme park.

Advertisements

Resurrection Sunday Dance Worldwide

Last year 1300 people gathered in Budapest to dance for their Savior on Easter. The original video of this has gotten almost 1.5 million views. This is the remix:

Their website, UptoFaith.com is organizing an even bigger event this year. Cities across the world will participate:

The goal: To celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with an international dance event on Easter Sunday (April 24, 2011) After that we will share the message of gospel with a YouTube video made from all the recordings of the dances.

I’m looking forward to seeing the final result.

Widen Your Perspective: A Photosynth App Review

The other day I discovered the Photosynth app for iOS. Currently free, and from Microsoft, this handy dandy little photo app makes panoramic pics so simple. You just tap the screen, and move the iPhone/iPod/iPad around. The app take pics automatically, and then stitches them together into a virtual view. Inside the app and on Photosynth.net website, you can explore them in quasi virtual reality. Or you can crop a version and post it to Facebook.

Above is an image I quickly took of a rehearsal for our Easter production. It makes the Worship Center look huge. I find that I get best results when I manually capture the images. Sometimes the app gets confused, and needs a bit of help. You can only upload to Facebook or Photosynth from within the app, but the images are saved to your camera roll. So you can leave the app and post at will.

For free, hard to beat this fun little photo app.

RIP Flip

I’ll bet the founders of Pure Digital are smiling this week. Cisco, who bought them and their popular line of Flip handheld cameras, shut down manufacture of the line. After spending $590 million on the company two years ago, Cisco shut them down. There are all kinds of reasons why Cisco might want to do this, but the plain fact is that if the Flip line up was still pulling in the cash it did back in 2009, they would have either kept it or sold it off.

In many ways, this is like Kleenex announcing they will no longer make tissue. I mean, Flip had significant name recognition. people would talk about buying a Flip camera, and mean buying a handheld camera. They made it easy to carry a video camera anywhere, and get good looking video that was easy to share on your computer.

And then they didn’t do anything else. They owned the handheld camera market. And then they stopped innovating, stopped improving. Oh, they released a few new devices. One with a larger screen. A larger capacity Mino. There were lways rumors of new Flips, one that could use WIFI to publish directly to the internet video sharing site of your choice. One that could stream video from the camera. Vaporware.

So, with no real enhancements to entice new purchases, once everyone who wants a Flip has a Flip, how do you make money again? Its not like they are poor quality, they last for years.

And the competition isn’t waiting around. I don’t mean Flip-like handhelds. Most of those are still offering the same features as a Flip. We use the now discontinued (But if you get lucky you can find one) Kodak Zi8 for work. It offered a slightly more “pro” set of features with external power and external audio input. (But most people buying Flip-like camcorders didn’t care about pro features.)

The real competition came from Smart Phones and iPod/Music Players. When Apple introduced the 5th Gen iPod Nano, it had a camera. Steve Jobs even said they were competing with Flip (name recognition). Now, you can capture video on a device that also did something else. A device smaller than the Flip Mino. These were not HD videos yet, but it was the beginning of the end. One generation of devices later, and every Smart Phone and iPod Touch could not only capture HD video, but edit and upload right from the device.

I own a Flip Mino, an iPod Touch, and an iPhone 4. Which of these do you think I will carry if i am trying to lighten the stuff in my pockets? I am letting my kids play with the Flip. I am taking the device that let’s me work and play, capture video, edit and upload. And lately I have been using the video capability through apps that add effects. It just does more than the Flip.

I have a friend who was lamenting the demise of Flip. He loves his Flip. He couldn’t believe they were not going to be available in the future. He pulled out his Flip Ultra HD. It’s the same one he has owned for a couple of years. These are the customers Flip could have capitalized on if they had offered anything worth upgrading to. Give him a Flip with WIFI, and he would have been posting to Youtube in about 3 seconds. Yes, his iPhone could do the same thing, but he likes to use the Flip. he just doesn’t like to use it enough to keep buying new ones that do the exact same thing his current one did.

The death of the Flip is a cautionary tale for every technology company. You cannot sit back with your successful product and expect it to stay successful. You must keep improving.

Honesty Costs

Today, being honest cost me $1.79.

I was at McDonald’s. Ordered a sausage biscuit and a large Coke. Breakfast of champions. I was charged $1.07. I saw the receipt and just thought she had forgotten the Large Coke. But then she handed me the cup. I kind of blinked at her. $1.07 is about 1/3 of what it should cost. After a second or two it was obvious she wasn’t going to realize her error, so I mentioned that I had not been charged for the Coke.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it for free, but you didn’t charge me for it.” I said.

So she rung up the Coke and I made a second transaction for $1.79.

There were several people standing around the counter, I got the feeling at they were all looking at me like I was an idiot. I mean, hey, wasn’t my mistake. But for me, that whole sin of omission versus commission is pretty clear. If the cost of integrity is $1.79 today I’m OK with that.

Sometimes it costs more. My wife told me about something my son said the other day. He was at church, and was asked to give an example of someone being honest. He told a story of a trip to the farmer’s market a couple towns over. We were walking around, and I saw some cash on the ground. Turns out it was quite a bit of cash, over $100. We didn’t keep it, we turned it in.

I could have used that cash. The likelihood of someone coming back to that spot and asking the vendor if someone has turned it in was very slim. But it wasn’t mine. It was the right thing to do, so we turned it in. You never know if your kids really learn from watching you in those moments until later. What’s his example of integrity? Turning in a wad of $20s.

Sometimes honesty costs more than money. What’s it worth to you?

Christians Don’t Believe in Comedy

I’ve come to the conclusion that Christians don’t believe in comedy. I think I’ve known this for a while, but it jumped out at me this past week.

It all started when the song “Friday”, by Rebecca Black, hit Youtube and stayed as a trending topic on Twitter for weeks. Here’s a taste. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, but look at enough to get the idea:

Good or bad, 92 million+ hits isn’t anything to sneeze at. It’s a fairly well produced independent video of a pretty poor song. For whatever reason this thing went viral, and has staying power, mostly from people making fun of it. It has inspired quite a few parodies.

I steadfastly refused to watch it until I heard about Community Christian Church’s parody. The talented crew created a parody that invites people to Easter services on “Sunday”:

I watched it, and laughed, and then went and watched the original and laughed more. They really nailed the feel of it. For a lot less money I’m sure. I know Eric Bramlett, the Creative Ministry Director there, from his work with the Exponential conference, which we host every year. I saw some of his twitter feed and read his blog, then listened to his Pop Culture Pulpit podcast on the subject.

After that I’m convinced that Christians don’t believe in comedy. If they did, a church having fun, making a funny video that happened to get a bit of circulation, wouldn’t be so odd that it confused people. The fact that so many people responded with viciousness and misunderstood the video shows that we really don’t do comedy. The church (Not Community Christian, Christendom, the organization that’s been built around the Body of Christ. That church.) does stupid things exactly like what these people thought this video was. Even the Christians on Godtube can’t just enjoy it. No, they fight about meaningless topics.

Christians don’t believe in comedy because we don’t do comedy. Oh, we do fund raising events with stand-up comedians. And funny skits in worship a couple times a year. But most churches don’t do comedy. We ignore it.

If anyone can name a live-action Christian movie that was actually intended to be a comedy I’ll send you $5. I’m serious. I cannot think of a single Christian film, aside from some animation, that was actually supposed to be classified as a comedy. I’ve seen some funny ones, but no actual comedies.

Why not?

God created the sense of humor. Why don’t we embrace it?

Well, for one, laughing doesn’t simulate the kind of emotional response people normally want in church. We want people to be serious, and engage in deep introspection, and be alert for the Spirit of God to move. Never mind that humor is one of the most effective ways to communicate difficult messages without offense. That’s not to say that you cannot offend with humor. It is very easy to mess up comedy.

And that may be the real reason we, the “Church” don’t believe in comedy. It’s hard. You have to know your audience, and be able to communicate something you find funny in a way that everyone else will find it funny too. It’s simpler to make people cry. When comedy goes wrong, it goes way wrong. It’s risky. It’s safer to stick with serious topics. No need in taking a chance on getting a nasty-gram in your email.

So, Christians don’t believe in comedy.

But we should. More churches should take chances and do comedy. You know why? God created it, and people like it. Check out an article on EW.com. It lists the tops shows by age group. Count the number of comedies listed… In the age groups we are losing fastest from the church, there are reality shows and then there are comedies. No dramatic shows in the top 6 for those ages.

Now count the number of comedy TV shows Christian produce…

We need to do comedy. The few drama groups and video crews and stand up comedians who follow Christ and do comedy cannot carry this for us. We should stop ignoring a whole genre of art. Let’s actually believe in comedy.

How to Tell Which Title to Rip in Handbrake

Have you ever loaded up a DVD to rip with handbrake, and then discovered that there are multiple titles that could be the actual movie title you want to rip? Whether it’s different audio tracks, theatrical versions, or an attempt by movie studio to prevent people from ripping the content, trying to create a digital copy of a movie you own can sometimes create a challenge. But there is an easy way to find out exactly which title you should rip to make sure that you get the exact video you want in digital form. (For Mac users, anyway)

I used to go searching in vain on the internet for which title I should rip, until I ran across this easy method.

Load the DVD. Launch the Mac DVD player program. Once the DVD loads up, play the video you want to rip. As it plays, press the “ctrl” button and click on the video itself. A menu will pop up, scroll down to the word title, a submenu will pop up and the number with the check mark beside it is the title you want to rip.

It’s that easy. Load the DVD into handbrake, select that title and apply your settings. Then rip away.

Stray Oxen: Improving Relationships Through Kindness

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. Exodus 23:4 ESV

As a part of the emphasis on “Passion for God” my church is doing this year, we are reading through several books of the Bible together, and one of them is Exodus. The reading from a few days ago took us through the chapters after the 10 Commandments, which also list law after law. Now I know that we are not bound by the Law, and are under grace, but God didn’t make laws for no reason. And the reasons for those laws are worth considering for today. Obviously, some had to do with temples rituals and health that don’t apply to modern life, but many have a moral foundation that can teach us something.

This law in chapter 23, verse 4 jumped out at me. I imagine this scene, a young man is walking down the road, and sees the donkey of a man who hates him wandering loose. He knows that the donkey isn’t supped to be out there. This man has done nothing wrong. It’s not his donkey, and he didn’t turn it loose. The owner hates the man. In modern America, it would perfectly acceptable for the man to just keep on walking with a clear conscience. He did nothing wrong, it isn’t his problem. He is not expected to help a guy who hates him.

But here in the Old Testament, a law telling people to bring the donkey or ox back to the owner, even if he is an enemy.

Why?

It goes back to why we are here. What is the meaning if life on earth, and how that applies to this sort of situation. (I know, this is getting philosophical. Even if you don’t like my idea about why we are here on earth, there is another reason, so hang on.) There are two reasons for life on earth, and only two reasons: 1. We are here on this plane of existence to have opportunity to choose God or not. 2. Once we have chosen God, we our mission, our ministry in life is to help others to do the same. that is an extreme simplification of a complicated journey of sanctification that starts with justification by faith in Christ, but there it is. If you ascribe to that view of life’s purpose, you cannot afford enemies. Your whole job, once you have been reconciled to God through Christ, is to be a “minister of the reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5). If you have an enemy, you must do everything in your power to mend that relationship so that you can influence them toward Christ. Going out of your way to do a good thing, to help them is not a bad way to start fixing what’s broken there.

A second reason, which applies even if you think my first reason is messed up, we are supposed to love others. If you love someone, you don’t want bad things to happen to them, even if they hate you. So if it is within your power to help them, you should. That’s why the Law said that if you see your enemy’s ox wandering free, go and take it back to him.

But how does any of that apply to us, now? I don’t own oxen. And if I saw one wandering free, I wouldn’t know how to get it back to the owner.

We may not have oxen or donkeys, but there are times when we encounter situation where we can help others. And the others we encounter may not even be enemies. If we are to try to help our enemies, how much more should we try to help friends and work colleagues, and neighbors?

So yes, they may not have filled out the proper form, but you may be able to help them. It’s not your problem that the wind knocked over the trash can in your neighbors yard, but maybe you can gather it up. That guy at work may get on your last nerve, and it may not be your job to help him, but if you can you should.

Try it and see if your relationships don’t get better.

Limiting eBay: A Tip to Save a Headache

The other day I was selling an old lens on eBay. I’ve been using eBay for a long time, mainly to sell electronics and camera equipment I don’t need anymore. While I don’t always like the way they do business, generally it’s an easy way to make some quick cash from stuff that would otherwise just sit in my closet. You can definitely make more than you would selling it to a pawn shop or similar.

But the most annoying thing happened on this particular auction. I had chosen to limit shipping to the USA only. I checked that box in the listing process, and mentioned it very plainly in the auction itself. I only ship to confirmed Paypal addresses in the USA. I have some reasons for that I won’t go into here, but that is my choice as the seller. You would think that by checking a box that says you won’t ship internationally, that eBay would not show the auction to potential international buyers. That is not the case.

My lens was won by a guy from Canada. Should he have read the listing and looked at the terms for shipping before he bid? Absolutely. He knew he had made a mistake and kindly agreed to cancel the transaction. But why would he have even been able to see it? eBay refunded my final auction value, but not the listing fee. I tried to offer a second chance to the second highest bidder, but they declined. So now I have had to pay to list the item again. This time I found a way to limit who can see the listing.

Unless you tell eBay not to show your auction to people from primary addresses that you will not ship to, they will show it to anyone. Toward the bottom of the listing form there is a section where you can limit who can see/bid on your item. In this list there is a box you can check that does not allow people from other countries, from countries you have said you will not ship to, to see your item.

I would prefer this was automatic, but at least you can do it. I don’t want to sell this lens a third time.