August 31, 2008

A Trip Back in Time

Just off the courtyard, at the Winchester Mystery House, was a building, with a sign outside that said, "Arcade". I assumed that it would be along the lines of an old Nickelodeon type place. While there were a couple of turn of the century machines, it was mostly full of early 80's Atari arcade games. I suppose to today's gamers, these things are antiques. But, it was a trip down memory lane for me. I went nuts when I heard the old "get ready" theme from Pole Position.

Posted by Valkyre at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2008

Winchester Mystery House Tour

As promised, I am posting some photos. Arrived at opening time to find the parking lot empty. Here's a shot of my lonely little car. Was it even open? Yes, it was.

We were part of the first group of the day. There was about 9 of us total, which made it nice. No crowding.

There is actually two tours. One that takes you around the inside of the house. The other takes you around the grounds and down into the basement. If you combine them into one, you get a discount. We bought the combined tours. The first part took us into the house first.

Sarah Winchester was all of 4' 11" tall, and she had tiny doors built that were suitable for her. This is one of the first things we saw on the tour. Mike uis 5' 8", so this gives you an idea how short the door was.

There were two things going on while she was building the house. One, she had terrible arthritis and it was difficult for her to negotiate stairs, so she had staircases built with low risers, to make it easier for her to climb. This is a picture of one of them. You can see that Mike had to duck in order to go up:

The other thing was the hodgepodge of building. Doors that lead nowhere, blocked doors and bizarre cupboards, etc. It was rumored that she did this to confuse the spirits. What spirits? The spirits of the dead Indians that were killed by Winchester rifles. She lost her only child and husband within months of each other and was lead to believe that she was cursed and would be next. So, if she kept adding to the house, she would never die.

The next part of the tour, showed us the stairs to nowhere:

We were also shown what looked like regular cupboard doors that opened onto walls:

We also got to see what was called the $25,000 room. This was a room with doors and window inlaid with Tiffany Glass. $25,000 in 1884 dollars. These would be priceless now:

She also had some short railings installed. Just high enough for her to reach:

We were shown a couple of rooms that were never finished, as building stopped when she died:

There is a total of 47 fireplaces in the house. I got a picture of a couple of them. Absolutely beautiful:

As you can see from the $25000 storage room, she bought some beautiful doors and windows. There were others installed around the house. These are a few of them:

One of the many bedrooms we got to see was Sarah Winchester's bedroom. The Winchester Rifle company was pulling in around $1500 a day. You can see that she had money to burn and spared no expense:

She also had a "themed" room called the Oriental Room:

The following are pictures of some of the other rooms in the house:

When the 1906 Earthquake struck, the Winchester House was only 10 miles from the epicenter. The house took significant damage. Sarah was trapped in a room and it took her servants several hours to get her out. She closed off the damaged part of the house. This is why there are some staircases that are still "normal", like the ones in the following shot. As you can see, they are very ornate:

This is the last room of the tour. I wish I had remember our tour guides name. That is her, over to the side. All I can remember is that she was a retired school teacher. She did a great job.

That is all the photos I am going to post for now. The Basement and Garden tour will be in a future blog entry.

Posted by Valkyre at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2008

Winchester Mystery House

Spent half the day here. We toured the house, the grounds and even the basement. This is my first time here and I definitely want to return. There was so much to take in. I ended up shooting 169 photos and filled up both cards. So, I was unable to take pictures in the Winchester Firearms Museum. I will post more pictures when I get home. This is one taken out in front of the house in the gardens. It's an interesting story about the history behind the house. I've been to Hearst Castle. And, I would say that I enjoyed this much better.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:05 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2008

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Mike and I are leaving today to take a short trip to San Jose. Just a short little vacation to unwind. While we're there, we're hoping to tour the Winchester Mystery House. We'll probably be leaving in about an hour. I hope everything goes okay.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2008

A Funny Cartoon

Saw this cartoon awhile ago. I have been meaning to post it. Keep forgetting about it. It reminds me of Lynne's parking lot encounter with one of these boobs.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2008

Another Hero Dog Story

I love stories like this

(CNN) -- A dog sheltered a newborn baby abandoned by its 14-year-old mother in a field in rural Argentina until the boy was rescued, a doctor said Friday.

The abandoned infant was found in a field with this dog and her newborn puppies.

A resident of a rural area outside La Plata called police late Wednesday night to say that he had heard the baby crying in a field behind his house.

The man went outside and found the infant lying beside the dog and its six newborn puppies, Daniel Salcedo, chief of police of the Province of Buenos Aires, told CNN.

The temperature was a chilly 37 degrees, Salcedo said.

The dog had apparently carried the baby some 50 meters from where his mother had abandoned him to where the puppies were huddled, police said.

"She took it like a puppy and rescued it," Salcedo said. "The doctors told us if she hadn't done this, he would have died."

"The dog is a hero to us."

Dr. Egidio Melia, director of the Melchor Romero Hospital in La Plata, told CNN that police showed up at the hospital at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday with the baby who doctors say was only a few hours old.

Though the infant had superficial scratches and bruises and was bleeding from his mouth, he was in good shape, Melia said.

The next morning, the child's mother was driven by a neighbor to the hospital and told authorities the 8 pound, 13 ounce infant is hers, Melia said.

The teenager was immediately given psychological treatment and was hospitalized, he said. She has said little about the incident.

The child has been transferred to a children's hospital in La Plata, 37 miles from Buenos Aires.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2008

This Explains a Lot

I had the alarm set to go off at 7am this morning. But, at around 6:00am, I woke up to the constant buzz of a helicopter circling nearby. I figured it sounded like a police helicopter circling over a crime scene nearby. I was right.

Article here:

CHP, motorist in Gardena gun battle

By Andrea Woodhouse Staff Writer

Article Launched: 08/21/2008 06:32:30 AM PDT

A man led California Highway Patrol officers on a high-speed chase early this morning that ended in Gardena with an exchange of gunfire, but no injuries, authorities said.

After driving recklessly -- sometimes at high speeds and into oncoming traffic -- the unidentified suspect fired at officers before being incapacitated by a stun gun and removed from his vehicle at Rosecrans and Western avenues just after 4 a.m., said CHP Officer Rick Quintero.

The pursuit began around 2:50 a.m. when the suspect fled after being
approached by CHP officers who'd heard a report of a vehicle blocking the road near Sawtelle and Pico boulevards in west Los Angeles, said CHP Officer Rick Quintero.

Officers followed the suspect, driving alone in a white Honda, along several freeways and surface streets of four CHP jurisdictions, Quintero said.

Believing the pursuit was too dangerous to continue, CHP officers backed off when the suspect entered Long Beach around 3:30 a.m., he said.

A Los Angeles Police Department helicopter continued to follow the suspect overhead, watching him stop briefly in Compton to retrieve an unknown item from his trunk, Quintero said.

The suspect then headed into Gardena, where he pulled into a Chevron gas station.

Once CHP officers arrived at the scene, the suspect fled again, but officers executed a precision intervention technique, causing the suspect's vehicle to spin out of control, Quintero said.

As his car spun, the suspect fired his gun at the officers, but struck no one, he said.

The officers returned fire just after 4 a.m., but did not hit the suspect, Quintero said.

He threw his gun out the car window, but refused to surrender, Quintero said.

Officers then shot at the suspect with a bean bag round, but he attempted to flee again, Quintero said.

His car then blocked by two patrol cars, the suspect still refused to exit the vehicle, Quintero said.

Officers broke the car's driver-side window, shocked the suspect with a stun gun and pulled him from his vehicle.

The suspect was taken to Gardena Memorial Hospital to be treated for injuries, and was expected to be booked later today on attempted murder by the Gardena Police Department, Quintero said.

CHP was still investigating the pursuit Thursday morning, trying to determine why the suspect fled from officers, Quintero said.

Blood tests will determine if the suspect was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he added.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2008

Mindless Fun - Stolen From Lynne

Caught this on Lynne's site:

Wikipedia your birthday and pick 4 events, 3 births, 2 deaths, and 1 holiday:


  • 1756 - St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in New York City for the first time (at the Crown and Thistle Tavern).

  • 1776 - American Revolution: British forces evacuate Boston, Massachusetts after George Washington and Henry Knox place artillery overlooking the city.

  • 1942 - Holocaust: The first Jews from the Lviv Ghetto (western Ukraine) are gassed at the Belzec death camp (eastern Poland).

  • 1969 - Golda Meir becomes the first female Prime Minister of Israel.


  • 1804 - Jim Bridger, American trapper and explorer (d. 1881)

  • 1919 - Nat King Cole, American singer (d. 1965)

  • 1938 - Rudolf Nureyev, Russian-born dancer and choreographer (d. 1993)


  • 461 or 493 - Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland

  • 1993 - Helen Hayes, American actress (b. 1900)


  • Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Evacuation Day

    Posted by Valkyre at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)
  • August 14, 2008

    Too Ugly to Be on TV!?

    This poor little girl. Seems a Senior Communist Party Official didn't like the way she looked. So, while it's her voice you hear singing an ode to the motherland, another "cuter" child is lip syncing the song in front of the audience. Way to boost the little singer's self esteem.

    The child in question was 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who was seen belting out "Ode to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag entered the National Stadium. She became an instant celebrity and was quickly christened a "smiling angel." The image of her in a pretty red dress appeared around the world.

    But it wasn't Miaoke who was singing. Chen Qigang, the ceremony's music director, told state broadcaster Beijing Radio that the voice heard around the world belonged to 7-year-old Yang Peiyi.

    Peiyi had the voice and was supposed to perform, but was yanked at the last minute because her looks were deemed not suitable by a senior Communist Party official, Chen said.

    Article here:

    China abuzz over lip-syncing singer in Olympics opening ceremony

    The face of the 'smiling angel' was that of 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, but the voice that of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. Sleight of hand also enhanced the fireworks spectacle on TV.

    By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

    August 13, 2008

    BEIJING -- China's $100-million Olympics opening ceremony wowed its global TV audience with a lavish spectacle and pizazz that tried to present a perfect image of China to the world, right down to the perfect teeth of the little girl who took center-stage and sang an ode to the motherland.

    Except the voice was not hers. It was recorded and belonged to another girl, with better pipes but crooked baby teeth and a chubby face.

    Nor was all quite what it seemed with the dazzling fireworks sequence watched by a billion or more television viewers. Worried about the difficulty of cameras capturing 29 sequential explosions from Tiananmen Square to the Olympic Village, the Chinese visual effects team re-created all but one of the big bangs in an animation studio, and inserted the 55-second clip into the live TV coverage.

    Perfection, it seems, must sometimes be faked.

    The revelations of dubbed voices and phony pyrotechnics renditions at the opening ceremony have lighted up the Chinese Internet, with many online users condemning the apparent bait and switch at the government's big show.

    "Fake singing for national honor? What kind of lessons are we giving such a small child?" asked an anonymous posting on, a news portal. "Is this national honor or national shame?"

    The child in question was 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who was seen belting out "Ode to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag entered the National Stadium. She became an instant celebrity and was quickly christened a "smiling angel." The image of her in a pretty red dress appeared around the world.

    But it wasn't Miaoke who was singing. Chen Qigang, the ceremony's music director, told state broadcaster Beijing Radio that the voice heard around the world belonged to 7-year-old Yang Peiyi.

    Peiyi had the voice and was supposed to perform, but was yanked at the last minute because her looks were deemed not suitable by a senior Communist Party official, Chen said.

    "It was for the national interest," Chen told Beijing Radio. "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression."

    The other sleight of hand involved the massive fireworks display at the culmination of the ceremony showing 29 pyrotechnic "footprints" a second apart in recognition of the 29 Summer Games, as if the past Olympics were walking toward the stadium.

    All of the footprints were at least partially detonated that night. Those on the scene saw them. But what TV viewers saw was an animated three-dimensional studio re-creation, Gao Xiaolong, visual-effects team leader at the Crystal Stone animation company, told the Beijing Times.

    Only the last "footprint" closest to the National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, was seen by viewers and locals in real time.

    "Most viewers thought these were live shots, so our work achieved its effect," Gao said.

    His studio spent nearly a year crafting the clip. To make it as visually seamless as possible, Crystal Stone consulted with the weather bureau to re-create Beijing haze at night, and the shot included a slight shaking to simulate shooting from a helicopter.

    Olympic broadcaster NBC -- the network on which the live entertainment show "Saturday Night Live" was infamously exposed for allowing singer Ashlee Simpson to lip-sync a vocal performance in 2004 -- said it had been candid with viewers that the fireworks they were watching were, in fact, pre-produced in a studio.

    "We said earlier that aspects of this opening ceremony are almost like cinema in real time," announcer Bob Costas told his audience. "Well this is quite literally cinematic."

    The vast majority of Chinese, many of whom have no Internet access and live in rural areas, were pleased and impressed by the result of the opening extravaganza, produced by filmmaker Zhang Yimou, which they saw as a moment of national glory.

    "There are too many things to be taken care of; it's understandable that errors will occur," said an anonymous posting on

    But other Internet postings complained about the show's expense, its aesthetics, and organizers apparently misrepresenting some elements to the public in their quest for perfection.

    China's propaganda ministry moved in Tuesday, deleting many online discussion entries and blocking access to video links showing Miaoke's lip-syncing.

    The Beijing organizers weren't the first to use lip-syncing for an Olympic performance. The late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, in great pain from pancreatic cancer, did so at the Turin Winter Games in 2006, although the voice that was heard was his own.

    But China has suffered a string of recent scandals involving fake news stories, bogus photos of a rare South China tiger and a sham TV report that vendors filled dumplings with cardboard. Social experts bemoan the lack of morality or trust among government agencies, companies and individuals.

    Kang Xiaoguang, a social science researcher with the Chinese Academy of Science, welcomed the online debate over the government's big show, saying it was a sign the society is maturing. But he added that the singing and fireworks misrepresentations are disconcerting.

    "Society also needs basic trust and justice," he said.

    There was also online grousing this week about the opening ceremony's aesthetics. The three-hour extravaganza presented an idealized vision of Chinese history and culture, with Confucius heavily represented and Chairman Mao noticeably absent. But some found it pompous and lacking heart.

    "It was nationalist clothing over authoritarian underwear," said Sichuan province-based writer and blogger Ran Yunfei.

    Zhang, director of well-received feature films "Raise the Red Lantern" and "House of Flying Daggers," said he was pleased with the outcome.

    "This kind of three-dimensional performance is a first for the world," he told a news conference. "If London also wants to do it this way, I estimate they won't surpass us in a short time," he added, referring to the host city of the 2012 Games.

    Ai Weiwei, an avant-garde artist, said the ceremony focused primarily on giving "face" to the government.

    "They tried so hard and wasted so much money," he said, adding that the oversized torch atop the Bird's Nest, which he helped design, resembled an ice cream cone.

    "The ceremony was stupid, a real wasted opportunity," he said.

    Posted by Valkyre at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

    August 02, 2008

    Goodbye Handsome Boy - June 1997 to August 2, 2008

    Rest in Peace, Tripod. We miss you.

    Posted by Valkyre at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

    August 01, 2008

    Hey! I Didn't Order This!

    So, I went out to get the mail today. And, as I sorted through it, I noticed that there was a letter from Prevention magazine. It looked like a bill. Which would be strange, since I didn't subscribe to it. I wanted to look closer it at. I've got them before, from other places, where it looks like a bill, but it's actually them asking you to subscribe. Tear it open and it was a bill. They were thanking me for subscribing to Prevention magazine and wanted me to pay $11.88. Interesting.... I had never subscribed to them. Went to Google and put in some search terms and got as one of the first hits. About a dozen other people had the same complaint. I registered over there and added my complaint to the list. From what I understand, these companies do this to take advantage of people whose memories may not be that good. They might receive this bill and think they may have signed up, though they don't remember doing so. And so they will remit payment. I took the invoice, wrote Cancel on it and am sending it back. Unfortunately, it's not a prepaid mail envelope, so I am going to have to spring for postage. Scams like this need to be shut down.

    Posted by Valkyre at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)