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Originally, the plan was to get over to the office around 9:30 Tuesday morning, load up the rental van with the table, chairs, and few other items we needed to bring to E3, and then zoom off to LA. But when do plans ever work out with us? I mean, seriously. So it was more like 10:30 when Victor called to kindly ask if we could go pick up Kelly. He gave us directions, and we ended up at some old lady's house (we found out later that even he had only been over there once). She recommended a store back the way we came from that might be able to help find the right house, and sure enough, the clerk helped us look up the address in their phone book and told us precisely how to get there. Afterwards, we headed over to Victor's place where Treeses dropped us off so Kelly and I could take the rental van over to the office and get it loaded up. When that task was complete, we went back to Victor's, and then started jamming to LA...until we had to flip around to pick up Victor's suit (what would we do without wives?). But then we were off, for real this time!

Man, what a looooong drive that is. We saw a semi truck on the other side of the freeway that was burnt to a crisp. All that remained was the engine block and the passenger side door, and its trailer section was bent like an aluminum can. Traffic was all backed up on that side, but was perfectly clear on our side, so I didn't have a chance to take a picture. Oh, and our van was dirty and had not been filled up all the way when Victor picked it up, so he called to report that. Anyway, Victor brought some CDs which we listened to, we talked some, I studied more hiragana and katakana, and tried playing some games on Victor's laptop. Unfortunately, a laptop, like a Game Boy and Game Boy Advance, is very difficult to play in a vehicle during daylight hours. Anyone whose tried it can attest to that. All the outside illumination, glare, and shadows make it nearly impossible to see the screen. Although it wasn't much of an adventurous drive, I was able to keep busy, so the time didn't seem to pass too slow. Neither Victor nor I had eaten breakfast, so we stopped in Sacramento to get some...or I guess it would have been lunch by the time. Mmmm....steak sandwiches....

It was evening by the time we reached our hotel, the Airtel Plaza, which was in Van Nuys about 17 miles away from the E3 convention center. We got checked in and went to dump off our crap before heading to the convention center. The thing was, my suitcase was buried behind the table in chairs, where it was unreachable, so I had to wait until we got those set up. Still, I headed to my room anyway to wait for Victor and Kelly...and found that my key didn't work. The hotel was like a maze, but I finally found my way back to the front desk. They had someone come with me to check it out, and even the dude's master key wouldn't open it. Right then Kelly and Victor came walking down the hall ready to split. So we took off, and they fixed it while we where gone. I still don't know what the problem was, though. My guess is a low battery in the lock. Oh yeah, and there was supposed to be a FedEx package for us at the front desk, but they didn't have it. They found out later that it was accidently picked up by FedEx with a pile of outgoing stuff.

Anywho, over at the convention center, we got our stuff set up without any problems, hopped backed in the van, and gassed it on over to the Cheesecake Factory. It was a race against the clock, as they would be closing the kitchen 11:00. We pulled up to the front door with a positive attitude and our fingers crossed, and had Kelly race in to see if we made it in time. The seconds seemed like minutes...and when they actually became minutes, I went in to see what was going on. It turns out that we were three minutes late, but the dude went ahead and let us in anyway, which I'm sure was due to Kelly's charm. Way to go!! So Victor parked, and we headed in to pick out our meals. I choose a delicious chicken sandwich, which was so good that I actually left the bread behind and just ate the meat so I could fit the whole thing in my belly. And of course I got one of their amazing strawberry lemonades. Mmmm...lovely.

My Trip to E3 2004 (Day 2)

The next morning we dropped Kelly off at the convention center, and then set course for Disneyland's California Adventure. The line wasn't very long at all, and that seemed to be the case all throughout the park. Once inside, we headed straight to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This was a fun ride, but not frightening in the slightest. It's no where near as elaborate as the Haunted Mansion. It basically just lifts and drops you a few times, but the air time feels great, as does the point when you can't tell that you're being raised until they drop you again. We got fastpasses before we got on, so after the first ride we basically just hopped back on again.

Next we went on California Screamin', which was great, and seemed to last forever (which is actually about three minutes). It was fast, had a lot of twists and turns, a loop, and was quite a smooth ride. Victor didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did, as he started the ride with his head against the padded head rest...not a good idea as I found out back when Treeses and I rode the American Eagle coaster in Six Flags Chicago. I have no idea why they suggest you do this. Maybe it's like "Okay everybody, please keep your head firmly against the headrest so you'll get a massive headache and won't feel like riding again so we won't have to look at your stupid faces anymore." The next ride was Mullholland Madness, which was fairly lame. I've never been on this type of ride, with the sharp turns which slide you into the person you're sitting with. This one's definitely a date ride, so if your riding with just a friend, you'd better hold on tight!

The Grizzly River Run rapids looked like a load of fun, but neither one of us wanted to get that wet. We stopped over the bridge to watch the people on the ride, and some of them were just absolutely soaked. There was a geyser that shot up a huge stream of water in the middle of the river which would waterlog anyone who happened to passing by. It was on some sort of timer, though, rather than a trigger, so the next batch of people who just saw it explode upon the riders in front of them would be freaking out...until they passed by the spot and nothing happened. So anyway, the final ride we explored was Soaring over California. Here you're buckled into these seats which were then raised off the ground and moved forward slightly towards a giant concave screen where they project a video that makes it look like you're hang gliding. It was a nice ride, although the transitions between scenes were really abrupt. Also, there are a couple of points where your feet are supposedly brushing across treetops, and it had the sound effects, but it lacked any kind of physical sensation that you would expect to go along with it, and so it really just takes you out of the moment.

So that was that. The park itself was really unimpressive. There didn't seem to be much theming at all, and the lack of shade made the warm day feel so much hotter with each and every ray of sun striking the open cement, radiating the heat back so you got it from above and below. I mean c'mon, would it have really killed them to plant a tree? Anyway, fun time was over. Now we had to find me a jacket for the Magic Castle dinner later that night. They require a jacket as part of their dress code, and all I had been able to dig up was some nice slacks, a dress shirt, and a black tie. We found a thrift store in Beverly Hills which had a jacket that would work. They actually had a really nice looking one there, but unfortunately it didn't fit, so we just had to go with the other one. The lady at the checkout said it was the first jacket she had ever sold...and then proceeded take it off the hanger and stuff it in a little plastic bag. Uhhhh... now I've never sold a jacket before either, but I do know that you're not supposed to shove it into a tiny plastic bag!

From there we headed back to the hotel to get changed, and then took off to find the Magic Castle. Victor called Kelly to have her take a cab there so we wouldn't have to fight through all the traffic to get over to her, then fight it all over again just to get back out. We arrived before she was even able to hail a cab. It was a pretty cool place. It's a private club, so when you first enter into the lobby, you have to be approved before going any further. You can only get in if your a member or have a guest pass from a member, but we were on their list thanks to a magician friend, so that part was no problem. We didn't quite follow the dress code exactly, since neither of us were wearing dress shoes, but they were black so nobody noticed. Finally, you had to be 21 to get, which we were of course, but as is typical I was the only one to get carded, even though I just turned 29.

So once your approved to enter, you then have to face the left wall and say "open sesame", which opens a secret door. That leads too the bar area. We each had a drink and then headed downstairs to look around a little. We read some articles they had posted on the wall about the Magic Castle. There was also a cool mirror effect they had down there which turned you upside down and looked like it was projecting you as a hologram or something in the middle of the doorway. It was kind of freaky seeing that unexpectedly while heading through the doorway. When we went back up stairs we were on the other side of the bar. This area contained a player piano that is supposedly played by a ghost named Irma. You can ask her any question you want, and she responds by playing a song...the only thing is you have to know the name of the song being played in order to know her answer. Victor was pretty good at that, while I was only able to recognize a few of the titles.

Soon Kelly arrived, and she brought along with her a guy she met in line for the cabs who happened to be staying at the Magic Castle hotel. The guy turned out to be "Mr. Mountain Dew" who was at E3 attempting to get Mountain Dew more incorporated into videogames. We consistently thank Mountain Dew in the credits of our games, as it's practically essential during those long nights (most hardcore gamer are aware of this, too). He gave us some Mountain Dew thumb guards that are supposed to help ease the sore thumbs of a gamer, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately he said that he couldn't join us for dinner, and so we had to part ways. We went in and let Kelly open the secret door, then showed her the Irma room while we waited for our dinner reservations.

The dinner was pretty good, but we didn't have very long to eat since we wanted to catch the shows. I had a plate of spaghetti, and was only able to finish about half of it before we headed downstairs to see the close-up magic show. We all got seats in the front row, and I don't know if that made a difference or not, but the guy doing the show (even though he was pretty old with a lot of experience) wasn't very good. Most of the time you could easily see the palming and manipulation of the cards. At one point, you could even clearly see a silver dollar protruding from the deck of cards he had set down on the table (and no, it was not intentional). There were a couple tricks that got me, but overall I'd say dude, it's time to retire from the close-up magic arena.

After that show, we went to the main hall where we witness three different acts. The first was Dr. Arthur Benjamin, a mathemagician who showed us his ability to name the day of the week on which a certain date fell on. He started out by asking people's birthdates, but then moved on to randomly picking dates and having an audience member look them up in a book. Than another act came on, but I can't remember a thing about that one. Must have been something special, huh? There was another act where this dude and chick danced around a lot while occasionally performing a trick or two. This was also pretty lame. I was happy when Dr. Benjamin came back on stage again. This time he showed us how he could square two and three digit numbers faster than someone could do it on a calculator (using the shortcut method of hitting "*="). He then even showed us his thinking process as he squared a five digit number. Those were neat tricks to show how math can be fun...at least when someone else does it. Yes, they were really cool, but there's still no way you'll ever catch me saying "Oh wow, I gotta learn how to do that!"

Oh yeah, and Treeses called me on Victor's cell during one of the performances (I think it was the dancing one). I had been trying to call her ever sine we arrived in LA, but her cell had been off. I was worried by this point because she went to Sacramento shortly after we left for LA, and she was supposed to have been back that same night, yet I hadn't heard anything from her...and she knew I was going to call when I got to LA. It turned out that she spent an extra day in Sacramento, and that she had just forgotten to turn her cell phone on. It was such a relief to hear from her, even though it was in the middle of the show and I could barely hear a word she was saying. I was able to call her back after the show was over to finally find out what was going on.

My Trip to E3 2004 (Day 3)

The next morning we all went to E3. Victor and I got our badges and walked around a little. He had meetings, though, so while he and Kelly did that I just walked around and experienced it all. I saw and played a lot of great games, as well as some crummy ones. Unfortunately I didn't get to play either of the new portable systems from Sony (the PSP) or Nintendo (the DS). I saw the PSPs that were displayed on walls, but never even got to catch a glimpse of the DS. The PSP looked pretty sleek, and it uses discs instead of cartridges which is a major plus. Another plus is that it uses Sony Memory Sticks, so you won't have to spend a lot on some memory card that can only be used with the PSP. Those were the only two major announcements at E3. I thought Sega was supposed to have some major announcement, but I didn't hear anything about it.

Okay, so on to the games! For the Nintendo GameCube, The Metroid sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and the new 2D Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures both look like the must-have games for the system. Metroid Prime 2 looks to be just as great as it's predecessor, while Zelda has finally been returned to it's classic overhead view which helped make it's action and adventure aspects flow so well. Oh, and this iteration even allows up to four people to play simultaneously (as long as you have an extra Game Boy and cable)! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to play either of these games. One of the games I did get to play, however, was Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. Unlike the previous two Lord of the Rings games, this one is an RPG. Even though I didn't play it for too long, it was quite enjoyable and I'll be looking forward to picking it up.

For the PlayStation 2, I got to try out a lot more games. The ones that really stood out for me were Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, and Y's: The Ark of Napishtim. Sly 2 plays just like the previous Sly Cooper title, except now you can play with the other characters. The first game was fantastic, and this one looks just as good, so snatching it up is a no-brainer. I was surprised to see a new Leisure Suit Larry, but it immediately brought back memories of the original adventure game which provided so many laughs back in the day. This iteration includes a bunch of enjoyable minigames in addition to the hilarious dialog. I don't remember very much of the old Star Ocean and Y's games, but the ones that I played here were quite enjoyable.

There were other PlayStation 2 games that I didn't get to play, but still stood out, like Prince of Persia 2 and Nanobreaker. The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a fantastic game, and it's sequel looks like it will be just as good. Nanobreaker looked like a Devil May Cry type of game, but with more action and more blood. I stood there for like 15 minutes watch the people play it, and they just wouldn't stop! Okay, it's a fun game, but give someone else a chance, will ya!

Along with the great games and mediocre games, there were also bound to be some disappointments. The big one that stands out in my mind is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Although it now supports four players simultaneously, the crappy combat systems didn't feel like it had been changed one bit, and a lot more jump puzzles were added, which are both difficult and annoying. Also disappointing was Neo Contra, which kept the same weapon system from the previous game, instead of going back to the classic system which helped to make the game such a hit in the first place.

Pyramat PM300 Anyway, another cool thing I saw at E3 was the Pyramat PM300, a mat with a triangle cushion at the head with built-in speakers. I tried it out, and it was extremely comfortable, plus the bass from the speakers would send vibrations through your body during every explosion. I am definitely getting one of these! They also had a version without the speakers, but why bother with that, other than it's only $30 compared to $150 for the other. The one thing I didn't see this year that I was really looking for was the backlit keyboard booth from last year. I was really hoping that they would have come out with an ergonomic version, since all they had last year was the standard flat style, but this year I couldn't find their booth anywhere. It was kind of a disappointing.

After looking around for several hours, I headed back to our office where both Victor and Kelly were resting. I had to rest too, 'cause my feet were oh so sore. After a little bit, Victor and I took off to look around a tad more while Kelly had to finish up her last meeting of the day. The Sony party was later that night, but before that, we wanted to take in one of two movies that didn't come to Redding, either Super Size Me or Shaolin Soccer. So when Kelly's meeting was almost over, we went to get the van and pick her up out front. In the meantime, we tried to find somewhere we could get a paper for the theaters and show times. We just missed Kelly at the convention entrance, so around the block we went. We had her snag a paper for us, but as we went around the block Victor had the idea that maybe we could get show time info by calling 411...which worked. But we didn't want to make Kelly feel bad, so I pretended to look up the info anyway...no, no, just kidding, I really looked it up to verify the info so we didn't have to drive all the way out there if it was wrong.

By the time we had arrived at the theater and got our tickets, we were all starving. The only food we had eaten all day was the room service we got for breakfast. Remember when I said the hotel lost our FedEx package? Well, they gave us a voucher for free dinner, but since we already had dinner plans for every night, Victor ordered us all breakfast instead. Of course, they didn't allow us to use the voucher for breakfast, but the next day they gave us a free breakfast voucher for the inconvenience...too bad that was Friday morning, when we were checking out! Anyway, we were starving, so we got a steak sandwich at a place right outside the theater. We ate quick, but still missed the first minutes of the movie, which was hilarious by the way. Everyone should definitely rent it when it comes out on DVD.

After the movie we took a cab over to the Sony party. The cab was extremely cramped, and there was absolutely no foot room under the seats. I guess it was boarded up or something so nobody could stick anything under the seats, but it was very uncomfortable. This year the party was held at the stadium, and they had a tram to take everyone up the hill. When we got into the party, there was some announcement over at a stage that sounded like it was going to be some kind of magic, so we went over to take a look. It turned out to be just some dumb people dancing around with fire. Wooooooh, exciting! So we went to look around when we could no long stand the intensity of the show. Eventually the concert began, so we mozzied on over there. Performing was Missy Elliot, whom neither Kelly nor I had ever heard of. Victor apparently had some of her albums though.

When that was finally over, we decided to split. We got down to the bottom of the incline where you catch the tram to take you down the hill, and realized that there were no tables with free stuff set up. So we hiked back up the incline to grab our swag. This year it was a shoulder bag and a whiskey flask. Who thinks up this stuff? Well, at least it wasn't yet another backpack and cap. But seriously, how many bags do they think we need? Do the people who decide this stuff have some sort of problem with losing their bags? Do they get so much crap every year that they continually need new bags to carry it all? I know, how about next year they hand out a giant bag to hold all the other bags they've pawned off on us the previous years.

Well, we finally got down to the bottom of the hill where there was a line of taxis waiting. We headed straight down the line until we came to a taxi-van, and hopped on in. Ahhh, leg room! The driver was a nice guy who learned English in a classroom, was married three times, and played hockey. Yes, hockey, so yes, his teeth were false. I don't know how Victor does it...it's just like he has this natural gift for conversation, even from the back seat of a mini van.

My Trip to E3 2004 (Day 4)

The next day was Friday, the final day of the show. Victor had only one meeting that day, so I hung out at the Konami booth while he did that. Afterwards, we took off to do some shopping. We went to a comic store that we had gone to last time we were in LA, but this time half of it was completely empty and closed off. Their selection was much more limited and their prices seemed higher. We then tried to find Japan Town, but were unable to locate it...until I discovered that it was actually called Little Tokyo. We knew there was an anime shop in the area which we visited last time. If you look at the photos from my trip to LA in 2003, you can see me posing next to some giant anime figure in front of the store. The figure wasn't set out this time, but there was a Hello Kitty picture booth, so I decided to do that while we were waiting for the shop to open.

Rei and Asuka Inside, they had walls full of anime figures. There was a ton of neat stuff, but nothing that really stood out as something Treeses would love. I did see two over-sized Neon Genesis Evangelion figures (Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley) that were posed in very short Chinese dresses which I knew Treeses liked, so I got those. I also got a little figurine of a woman in a bikini crouched down with translucent fairy-like wings spread out from her back. It was cool looking, but I have no idea what anime series she is from. Treeses is really addicted to Ranma 1/2 now, but I didn't see any figures from that series.

After that, as we were driving back, we encountered a Toy District. Cool, this might be a good place to pick up some things, but as we started looking for a parking spot, we began to notice how run-down and nasty the area looked, and then saw how many bums... uh... shelter challenged Americans... there were all over the place. Well, we eventually found a spot, so we walked up one side of the block and down the other, checking out a few stores here and there. Some sold cheap knock-offs, others sold simple little-kid toys, but there was one or two that looked to have some descent stuff. Victor picked up a couple things, but I really didn't see anything that would interest Treeses. There was a nice looking Tinkerbelle backpack, but it was too small for her to get any real use out of it. There was one store that had all kinds of knock-off Transformers where I saw what looked to be like a PlayStation-style videogame console that would transform into a robot. I've never seen anything it before, but that interest lasted for all of five seconds and then we took off.

We returned to the E3 convention center, but Kelly was still doing meetings so we looked around a little. There was this cool exhibit in Kentia Hall (where our office cubicle was) about the History of Videogames which had tables full of all kinds of old videogame machines and accessories, like the Atari 2600, Turbografx-16, Nintendo Virtual Boy, and just tons of other stuff. When Kelly's meetings were finally over, the security guard at the back door let us move our table and chair out so we wouldn't have to carry them all the way around the entire convention center. This was cool, as it got us out and packed up at around 3-3:30, before the show was even over. Even so, the traffic was still terrible. Oh, and we had to make a little detour back to the hotel so Victor could pick up his pillow. It wasn't really out of the way, but it still took awhile just because of the traffic. Eventually we were able to make it to the freeway, and then onto a part that was actually moving.

For lunch, we ended up at a fast food Chinese joint called Pick Up Sticks. We were unsure as to whether or not we wanted to try this unknown Chinese food place, but the food looked good and they had their grade A posted in the window, so we went for it. I got a teriyaki chicken rice bowl, which was excellent. Everyone said their food was wonderful, too. I'm glad we tried it. And it's kind of cool how the food establishments have their grade posted where everyone could see it. They should really implement that policy in Redding.

We got into Redding about 2-ish, dumped everything off at the office, dropped Kelly off at her place, and then dropped me off. Treeses said she was going to wait up for me, but I found her laying in the bed when I got home. She was still awake though, but I really wasn't, and basically fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. And that's about it. If was a fun trip, but very exhausting, and my feet were still sore several days later.

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