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Archive for October, 2008


7 Tips for Enjoying a Haunted House

Haunted House
Creative Commons License photo credit: darkpatator

For many, it is a tradition to head to a haunted attraction sometime near Halloween. For us, the scare of going the a haunt is just part of the spooky season much the same as looking at lights is part of the Christmas one.

But haunts can be expensive. High-end attractions charge $20 or more per ticket and even “budget” haunts routinely charge $10 or more. This prices them higher than a trip to the movies and most nightclubs in terms of entertainment expense.

Yet, the way some people go through a haunt, they seem to sabotage their own chances of actually having a good time. They essentially throw away their ticket price and some then complain that the haunt was a waste of money.

If you don’t know how to go through a haunt, even the best attraction will be a waste of cash. As a serial haunt attendee, haunt actor and haunt operator, here are my tips for getting your money’s worth. Read moreRead more


MacJournal: Not For Bloggers

Mariner Software is one of the few Mac software development companies I really like.Their StoryMill product is easily the best novel management and writing software I have seen and I’ve been using it for some time on a work I’ve been tinkering with.

However, their MacJournal application is not one I’ve ever been able to understand. It has traditionally been a Journaling application, one that lets you keep a diary of sorts of your daily life. While that is a neat idea, I’ve often wondered how useful such an application is because few people seem to want to run to a computer to record their lives events.

Though the app is slick, letting you organize your life into journals, folders and more, I really didn’t see how this application would fit into my life or the life of anyone I know.

However, when Mariner announced its recent update to the application, I learned that it provides another tool, blogging. Though the blogging tool is far from new, when I learned that it was capable of helping me edit my sites, I was excited about the possibilities.

It truly had the potential to go from an offline journal editor for those with no lives, to a full fledged life organizer for bloggers with no lives.

But my excitement was short-lived. After downloading the app and giving it a test drive, I learned that this was no blog editor, but rather, was a journaling application with the blog editor shoehorned in. The result was that MacJournal remains a decent journaling app, but fails to fill my much-needed niche. Read moreRead more


Review: Chamber of Horrors

For better or worse, the New Orleans haunt scene is dominated by the House of Shock. Though it is great to have an internationally-recognized haunt in the city, it brought with it the high ticket prices and conga-line style walkthrough that sours many on the haunt experience.

With no Chinchuba’s, Blaine Kern’s or Scream Factory this year, The House of Shock and The Mortuary are the only two professional haunts in the metro area with House of Shock being by far the best known. This has left a strange void of inexpensive and creative haunts that span the gap between home haunters and high-end professional establishments.

Fortunately, just outside the city in LaPlace, there is a smaller, lesser-known haunt called the Chamber of Horrors that sits in that gap nicely. Though clearly a professional haunt, it is not the big-budget movie set style you see elsewhere in the city. It is a middle of the road haunt that is half the price of its competitors.

But is the Chamber of Horrors worth the trip? It really depends on the type of haunt that you want. Read moreRead more


Why I hate Flying

In less than 24 hours I am going to be engaging in one of my least favorite activities. Putting my body into a hollow tube and letting people I barely know navigate it at hundreds of miles per hour through the air.

Now, I joke, I’m not actually one of those white-knuckle fliers that have seen William Shatner’s episode of The Twilight Zone too many times, but I do genuinely hate flying.

It is one of the great paradoxes of my life. I love traveling, I hate flying. If I could teleport myself and my luggage where I needed to go, I would be a world traveler in no time, no matter what the expense.

But as it is, I am stuck with flying and the headaches that comes with it. Though I know no one is particularly fond of air travel, I seem to have an especially strong aversion to it.

Why do I hate flying? Well, the reason starts even before you get to the airport.

Read moreRead more


Saving Money at Halloween

I was in Wal-Mart the other day (please don’t ask) and decided to take a look at their Halloween section. Though I usually don’t have high expectations of these “big box” retailers when it comes to Halloween, I feel obligated to check and, sometimes at least, they do have some interesting stuff.

My wife and I began to look through the costume section. As we get closer in to opening our haunt (we open Halloween night), we are realizing we need some outfits to go with our Asylum theme and a few sets of scrubs are high on the list.

In the Halloween section we saw a set of costume scrubs for sixteen dollars. While that may not sound like a bad deal and is actually very cheap for a Halloween costume, the problem is that just 100 feet away Wal-Mart had a collection of real scrubs for just ten dollars.

The problem didn’t end there. You could buy a fake plastic broom for eight dollars or go to the cleaning section and get a real one for three or four. Likewise, you could by a “costume” sword for about six dollars but “toy” ones in the toy section were just two or three.

Everything in the Halloween section is marked up to insane amounts just because the the price tag is in orange and black. This is a huge headache for parents, who are buying something their kids will wear exactly once, home haunters, who have tight budgets, and even professional haunted houses.

So if you want to survive Halloween without breaking the bank, here are a few ways to cut corners and avoid getting gouged this haunting season. Read moreRead more


Top 5 Haunted House Cliches

As someone who enjoys going to and building haunted houses, I’ll be the first to say that the creative capital of the industry is running extremely low.

Currently, there seems to be just two kinds of haunted houses. The first are over-capitalized ones that have a budget that rivals a Hollywood movie. They spend all of their money on sets and animatronics and seem to forget about the scares. Coupled with high admission prices and long lines, they seem to disappoint every time.

The other kind is the low-budget haunt, usually done for charity. These tend to be more laser-focused on getting the scares. Staffed by volunteers, they spend every hour and every precious dollar on making the haunt scarier. Sometimes they’re great, the best being one I went to at a county fair many years ago, but usually the lack of experience or thought shows through. Though these haunts try hard, they quickly give into cliches as the lack of great planning takes over.

As someone who’s haunt budget barely breaks four digits, I can’t afford misses. In a small haunt with tight dollars, if a scare misses you might not get another good chance. Thus, I have to avoid cliches and expired ideas.

What are the worst of the worst? Well, that list is below. Read moreRead more


How to Scare People: A Practical Guide

I’m no expert on the psychology of fear. I know what it’s like to be afraid, I know what gets my blood going and I know how to scare others, that’s really the extent of my scientific knowledge.

That being said, I have a surprising amount of experience scaring the Hell out of people. In addition to being a generally “creepy dude” I’ve been through dozens of haunted houses, worked in one professional one and operated my own haunt, either on my own or with my family, for over a dozen years.

Usually though, when others find out I run my own haunted house, the first question I get asked isn’t “Can I come?” or “How can I help?” but, rather, “Got any ideas for my house?”

What people usually want are tips and tricks for scaring the the urine right out of their trick or treaters. But while it is brain-dead easy to relay some of my favorite tricks I’ve learned from experience and fellow haunters, it is much more effective to learn what actually scares people inside a haunted house and how you can apply that to your front porch.

As such, I’ve developed a set of simple rules that can help anyone, regardless of budget or time, can scare the pants off just about anyone. Read moreRead more


The Fall of Kimbo Slice: Good for MMA

The illusion that was Kimbo Slice came crashing down Saturday night. The YouTube phenomenon who made his name on the streets of Miami had a reputation for being one of the toughest men alive and his street fight clips only drove the point home.

Still, when he made his entrance into mixed-martial arts, most of the hardcore fans rolled their eyes. Though Kimbo was, and is, a very big, mean and scary guy, he is a brawler. One thing we learned from the early days of MMA was that brawling is to MMA what the windmill is to boxing. What works on your little brother doesn’t always work in the ring.

But EliteXC did something stupid. Not only did they take Kimbo on as a fighter, but they pushed him as star. Saturday night they paid dearly for that decision as the biggest name of their new promotion, and the headliner of two or their three nationally-televised events, went down in under 15 seconds to a virtual unknown.

Now it isn’t just Kimbo that has to look for a new direction, EliteXC does as well. However, Kimbo’s loss is MMA’s gain. With the specter that is Kimbo removed from the sport, we can now move on and focus on what the sport is supposed to be about, skill, athleticism and strategy. Read moreRead more


Why I Don’t Play WOW (or other MMOs)

World of Warcroft. What is there to say about it? It is the most popular MMORPG ever created and has become a huge cash cow for its creator, Blizzard.

This game makes so much money that, most likely, if Blizzard would just donate its next five years of earnings to the Treasury, we’d have enough money to bail out the economy, pay off our national debt and have enough left over to buy Iraq.

With nearly 11 million subscribers each paying $15 per month to play the game plus the cost of buying the game and expansion packs, Blizzard could only make more money if they invented a vacuum cleaner that sucked dollar bills straight out of people’s wallets.

But despite the rampant popularity of the game, I haven’t even tried it. I’ve never once set up a character or even bought myself a copy. I’ve watched others play it, and have to admit that it looked pretty cool, but I can’t see myself actually jumping in.

Why? Well, I’ll tell you. Read moreRead more


My Top 5 Facebook Annoyances

I have to say, after using Facebook for a few weeks, the site has really grown on me. As a Myspace refugee, it seems to me that Facebook manages to be both more mature and lower drama than Myspace.

The inevitable conclusion I’ve reached is that, if you’re not a musician or under the age of sixteen, Myspace doesn’t have a lot for you. Facebook lets you make connections without going through all of the B.S. It’s a nice way to keep in touch without getting drowned in drama.

However, this is not to say that Facebook is perfect, far from it. Though I don’t hate the new layout, I’ve still managed to find a lot of things that annoy me endlessly.

So, before I go bald ripping my hair out, here are my top five Facebook annoyances in order of the number of “facepalms” they’ve caused. Read moreRead more