Saturday, July 30, 2005

I Sure Love Hitting Night Traffic

I went back home to the tri-state area this weekend for some homecooking and to see the dog (and I guess my parents too). When I make the weekend trip, I usually leave around 8 PM to miss the usual rush hour traffic. A typical ride home takes about 4 hours with a stop or two, but Friday night's journey added another 45 minutes to that total.



Just before I got on the Beltway, I listened to the traffic report that made no mention of any problems, so I figured it would be another smooth ride. Suddenly around Silver Spring, traffic backed up for what seemed like a mile after a fender-bender in one of the right lanes. That's fine since it happens and we all like to look at it, etc. Traffic picked up for about a minute before coming to a complete halt.

I listen to the good'ol WTOP traffic report on the 8's and learned that I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic because 95 north was closed around rt. 212. Cars that wanted to go there were being turned around and directed onto 95 south (which was closed 15 minutes later as well).



Crap, just what I need.

I knew I'd arrive late, but this really made things worse. I stayed in the left lane for a bit and tried thinking of alternative routes since I lived around the area and had some ideas. Well, on the traffic report, the BW Parkway was backed up, as was Rt. 1, and most of the other exits on the way to the 95 north exit. Then, the report had a good suggestion, continue on the inner loop and take Rt. 50 East to 97 up to Baltimore. I got a little worried b/c I thought I was on rt. 50 longer than necessary, but it worked well as I took the harbor tunnel and rejoined 95 and eventually made it home safely. Of note on this trip is that my car broke the 1,000-mile barrier. Ya gotta love achievements like that in a brand new car.

This added lots of time to my trip, but I really feel for the out-of-towners who didn't know the local news radio station, nor any of the alternate routes. I guess it goes to show that when you're driving on unfamiliar roads, you should research what stations have traffic reports so you're not stuck in Maryland when you're trying to get to that hot summer tourist destination that is New Jersey - no really, you could visit the greatest concentration of diners in the country.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Mmmm...International Federation of Competitive Eating

After an eventful post-work afternoon, I managed to find my way to ESPN2 to watch the first round of the US Open of competitive Eating. It was held in the second week of July, though the first round wasn't aired until last night, with the remaining rounds airing tonight and tomorrow - Isn't cable wonderful? The first round features plates of cheese fries from the ESPNZone in Las Vegas. The rules are simple: Whoever eats the most cheese fries in 5 minutes moves on to the next round to "enjoy" some other delicacy like spaghetti and meatballs. Just like the NCAA basketball tournament, there are has single elimination matches. As in the famous hot dog eating contest held on July 4th at Coney Island, the most important rule is a contestant is eliminated when he or she experiences a "Reversal of Fortune", also known as throwing up, regurgitation, barfing, vomiting, puking, spewing, upchucking, and disgorging, etc.



Takeru Kobayashi and Sonya Thomas are perennial favorites in the tournament. Kobayashi is known for the hot dog record of 53.5 dogs and buns in 12 minutes while Sonya holds the American record around 34. The profiles of the top 20 eaters are as interesting as they are disgusting. Some records I've come to appreciate (since all of us could recreate these at home ) include:
  • 7 quarter-pound sticks, salted butter in 5 minutes
  • 49 glazed donuts in 8 minutes
  • 65 Hard Boiled Eggs in 6 minutes, 40 seconds (by Sonya no less)
  • Hamentaschen - 50 traditional Purim cookies in 6 minutes (my favorite)
  • Ice Cream - 1 gallon, 9 ounces of vanilla ice cream in 12 minutes (not for a lactard like myself)
  • Matzo Balls, 21 baseball-sized in 5 minutes 25 seconds
  • 4 32-ounce bowls mayonnaise in 8 minutes


When you look at the top eaters in the world (like Kobayashi above), it's surprising that several of them look in good shape considering the calories they inhale each contest. Further, with Kobayashi's hot dog dominance, it's any wonder why the larger contestants like Eric "Badlands" Booker don't do better. The medical theory is that thinner contestants have less fat around their stomach so it can expand further than the stomachs of heavier contestants, which have more fat around that area. The extra fat makes it more difficult to stomach (sorry about the pun) anymore food, while the skinny people can keep going. Eating contests are huge events in Japan so many "athletes" compete over there most of the year, but the prize money has been increasing in the states.


I love watching these contests and wouldn't mind finding out just how much food I could eat in one sitting if I pushed myself. I think some contestants simply choose foods nobody else has tried in order to get another record. There's no record for oreo cookies or slices of bread, so I'll just make my own rules and set the eating record by default. Also, what happens to these people in the 24 hours following a contest? Do they make themselves experience a "reversal of fortune" or simply deal with the digestive agony all day long? I know I'm not the only one fascinated by the post-contest results.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dumb Rules In Sports

Yesterday, an article about the dumbest rules in sports was published and made some pretty good points. Some of them are for the sake of comedy, but most are right on. I agree with lots of their ideas wouldn't mind seeing some of the sports try the new rules in the preseason or in their developmental leagues to see how things play out. A few additional changes (I'm sure I'll come across other ones, but for now this will do) that I've thought of are:
  • Football refs that say, "false start, before the snap..." Well of course it's before the snap so why tell us that when it can only occur before the snap? (I'm splitting hairs, I know)
  • Minimize the number of times a pitcher can look off or throw over to a base to hold a runner. Sure the runner returns to the bag each time, but each time after that the runner takes the same lead. Plus, it's rare for someone to get picked-off anyway.
  • The time it takes for an NFL ref to review a challenged play takes far too long. How many times do you have to see the play when all of us at home can determine it in 30 seconds? If it's not clear right away, then it's inconclusive and the field call stands.
  • Why is time an inexact science at the end of a football game. Within reason, players can slowly walk to the line to kill more time and some time is lost while the ref finally places the ball to be snapped.
  • Why does tennis continue using its odd scoring cycle of 15, 30, 40 and then deuce? It's okay to break from the past if the present is better.
  • Any sport that uses subjective judging to determine the winner has to be questioned. Why would anyone compete in a sport that determines its winner by someone else's opinion? Figure skating and gymnastics come to mind in addition to boxing.
  • College football weekly polls should be eliminated altogether or at least take away the curtain of silence to see who voted and how they did. I know they're sharing a little more information this year with the voting process, but it's too secretive.
  • Speaking of secretive voting processes, induction into the Halls of Fame in the 3 main sports (hockey lost its position as a 4th) is too anonymous. It should be known who the voters are and how they voted. Otherwise, players who may have been blackballed, etc., will have no recourse to debate otherwise.

Monday, July 25, 2005

More about the heat index

For the next two days, it REALLY is going to be hot in DC with temperatures up to 100 (though cooler on Thursday). With this in mind, here's an article about calculating the annoyingly pointless heat index. For some reason, I've decided that tomorrow will be the first time I play an officiated softball game in my life. It's also for my company and of course it's also a doubleheader, just my luck.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Too hot to write...

...well, it's not too hot in my apartment for me to write, but people out west sure have it rougher than DC this weekend. I like this polar bear's idea of a snack - a fish popsicle. Maybe we should just make all of our food into popsicles to combat the heat.




Voda the polar bear holds a frozen fish popsicle in her mouth as zookeepers ply the bear with frozen treats to keep the animal cool at the Denver Zoo, as the temperature rises above 100 degrees for the fifth day in a row in Denver, Friday, July 22, 2005. Forecasters predict that the temperatures in the Denver Area will cool slightly over the weekend only to increase again as workers return to their jobs on Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Forget The Heat Index, It's Just Hot Outside

It's safe to say the DC area is securely in the midst of its sweat-through-your-work-clothes-while-driving-home summer period. I'm sure my dry cleaners love this time since just about anything you wear for any length of time outside will need a good cleaning. The only good from this heat is you find out just how good or bad your deodorant is against the oppressive heat. My tried and true brand hasn't failed me in the four years I've used it, though I won't get into the business of product placement/promotion unless I get compensated for this (hint) "Cool Wave" scented protection.

According to my friends and trusted weatherfolk at Capitalweather.com, the heatwave's end won't happen for at least another week. Sure, I'll still play ultimate frisbee downtown on Sunday, but I had better bring lots of water. One of the many things I like about getting my weather from capitalweather.com, is they don't waste our time by listing the "heat index". Does anyone really care about the heat index? If the temperature is above 85, it's going to be hot, so all we need to know is if there'll be no or a lot of humidity.



The heat index tells (those who actually care) what the outdoor temperature feels like when you factor in the dew point (essentially humidity) level. Great, just great. So it's going to be 94 today, yet our local weatherperson let's us know with the humidity, it's going to feel like 99. Wow, that really changed my clothing plans for the day. Ya know, at first I thought if it's going to be 94, I'll just wear my wool sweater and dress slacks, but now that my annoyingly teased radio/TV weatherperson said it's going to feel like 99, I guess NOW I should think about shorts and a t-shirt. Please.

Does the heat index really do anything more than add to water cooler/awkward elevator talk in the office? I think that if It's going to be in the 90's for the next week, that's enough for people to go on when deciding their plans. All I want to know each day is the temperature, any chance of rain, and if it's going to very humid. Sure, the heat index combines the temperature and humidity readings, but 96 with no humidity is more comfortable than 90 "that feels like 96", so that doesn't really clear things up for me. Plus, if the temperature is 90 and the heat index pushes it to 96, the average listener/viewer like myself doesn't know if that means it'll be a little or very humid.

For the record, this is not me (nor will there ever be any pictures of me on this blog), but some random picture of someone sweaty courtesy of google images.



I bet the heat index was created by radio and TV meteorologists to improve their banter with the show's anchor. The anchorperson says, "so it looks like we'll reach 90 today." Of course everyone on air must keep their huge egos in tact so the meteorologist must sound smart and retorts with, "that's right, but you must factor in the heat index, so the real temperature is closer to 95."

I'm sorry, but if it's 90 in the summer, the heat index does not make any difference other than it's incredibly hot outside so dress accordingly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Imelda Marcos' Shoes Were Ahead Of Their Time

Imelda Marcos really is a hero to many women around the world for her shoe collection. The shoe collection even has its own freakin' museum! With that in mind, I have yet to figure out why every woman in the states and our friends in Europe loves shoes. I recognize they are needed to protect your feet from the harsh elements, and it's true that they usually "complete an outfit" so they must be chosen correctly, or else undo any great outfit you're wearing. I clearly understand the need to have shoes that match or "go with" some outfits, but do you really need more than 7 pairs for all of the clothes in your closet?



Call me a simpleton (which some women think all men are), but a guy buys a pair of dress shoes that cover a multitude of clothing options. We don't buy one pair for just one pair of jeans, but instead buy a pair because it can be used in many ways. Call us frugal if you will, but I think it's good shopping sense and self-control. Sure, women are good at finding great looking clothes to wear, but when they shop for shoes they always/automatically buy the pair - even if it's only worn with that one blouse from H&M with a lifetime "wearage" of about 3 nights out. Not to mention even if the shoes hurt a woman's feet, she'll still buy it if it looks great.



This topic is on my mind after I read that the average woman spends almost $54,000 on shoes in her lifetime (yes, I converted pounds to dollars). While this is another useless study done more for water cooler conversations than advancing our society, it is still quite shocking. The article goes on to say, "One third of women say they have 25 pairs of shoes in their wardrobe, and around 1.3 million women claim to have well over 30 pairs, according to research carried out by the Churchill Home Insurance group." Also, 86% of women buy at least one pair a month and 80% said they own at least 10 belts.



Do you really need that many accessories? I'll admit men's clothing is usually simple with fewer colors and easier choices, but why can't women follow our intelligent lead? I know that I don't have the sharpest eye for fashion, but I don't stray too far off the beaten path for my clothes. My shoe collection is made of 6 pairs that include a pair of: sneakers, basketball shoes, cleats, black dress shoes, and 2 pairs of brown dress shoes. I guess you could say I have 7 pairs if you count my slippers. With these 7 pairs, I have accounted for all of my clothes, from the formal business attire to playing basketball or soccer. I own 2 black belts and 1 brown belt. Again, those cover all my clothes.



Maybe it's because I haven't broadened my fashion sense beyond the chains in the mall, but there just can't be that great of a need for multiple pairs of shoes and lots of belts. Perhaps I should realize it's just another unexplained thing about women that men are destined to never understand.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Harry Potter, you're 15 years too late for me

Unless you've been living in a cave, the biggest news this weekend was the release of the latest "Harry Potter" book. By the way, why is that phrase about living in a cave even used when our ancestors from a long, long, long, time ago probably lived in a cave and were well aware of current news events and pop culture? Yet now, we use it as a negative phrase and dishonor the people who really had a large impact in who we are today. But I digress.

The latest episode in the series has already set all sorts of publishing records from largest pre-publishing (10.8 million) to largest weekend, and on and on as the weeks and months finish. If it has sold almost 7 million copies in its first 24 hours, how many people are left to purchase the book? As the linked article says, the book will generate more money this weekend than two newly-released movies!



The fact that there were millions of pre-ordered books is what astounds me with this entire series of wizardry. There are so many children actually excited about reading, which is certainly a great thing, but it's something that I never experienced growing-up. Amongst my friends, only a small minority really enjoyed reading books. It's safe to say we never got overly-excited for the latest "Hardy Boys" book to be published. I don't think I've even read any of the "Hardy Boys" books.



Despite my love of writing, I really don't read any books, though I know I probably should. I certainly make it a point to read my weekly "Sports Illustrated" (one of the best magazines in the country), but it's obviously not the same as a novel, be it "Harry Potter" or otherwise. From elementary school through 12th grade, I saw books as required unenjoyable readings about which we'd have to write reports. This is not to say that I didn't learn from the books I read, but there was and forever will be, no joy from reading a book you're forced to, instead of a book you're reading for pleasure.

Certainly, as an esteemed member of society, I can read any book I want and not write a report to discuss the author's statement on society or how the main character's use of the third person represented the discord he has with his own life. I know there are many enjoyable books out there, like "Harry Potter" (and plenty of adults enjoy the series as well), but I tend to fall asleep reading books. Maybe it's the lack of pictures, or maybe it's because I'm already tired and lying on my bed while reading doesn't equate to helping me stay awake. Perhaps I don't want to read someone else's story so I take it upon myself to write my own - yet another reason why I always took great enjoyment in my creative writing classes in middle school. If you don't like how someone is doing something, just do it yourself.

I admit there were a few books in college that I was interested in so I actually read every word, but the majority didn't fall into that category so I skimmed the text, picking up the key phrases that moved the story along. If the book interests me, I give it my full attention, otherwise, my mind goes elsewhere. My whole take on books is ironic since my father has always had at least 2 or 3 books borrowed from the library (while my mom always read a book at the beach) and he has said I should try books again now that there's no pressure on me. I know he'll be correct, just as he is with any advice for life I've received from him, but I won't get there for a few more years.



Basically, I'm writing to say that had "Harry Potter" come along back when I was around 10, I would have enjoyed reading books (yes, I said I'd like to read a book with words and no pictures) more than I do today. My sister enjoyed "The Babysitter's Club" series, but books just never worked for me. I know for a fact that if reading "Harry Potter" books was the cool thing to do because everyone was doing it, well then I would have just had to do my own reading so I could participate in the conversation. Just like seeing the big movie of the season, not so much because it's a great flick, but because you want to be able to talk about it. Though the "Harry Potter" books are as small as 300, the later editions reach 600-800 pages - I find these totals overwhelming and would never have read them all the way through.



Nevertheless, I am pleased to see this generation of kids going out of their way to read books, even ones over 600 pages long (while I was always a big fan of picture books not longer than 20 pages like "The Berenstein Bears"). Some critics have complained (since it's what they do) that J.K. Rowling's writing doesn't do enough to help improve vocabulary, etc., but that's nonsense when the bigger issue is the great job the books have done to get kids to read in the first place and turn off the TV, videogames, and Internet.

The next move for publishers is finding the next series of books to fill the void once Rowling is finished and keep this generation of kids reading. My next move is to actually try a book that I want to read now that I won't have to write a report. Suggestions are welcome.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The BORF Graffiti Mystery Explained & Life As A Scavenger Hunt

As I have made my way around the inner loop of the beltway for the last few weeks, I have noticed some graffiti on the divider near the American Legion Bridge. It reads, "BORF" and has some miscellaneous letters like "LAZF" afterward. I had no idea what it was nor who wrote it. Then, the Washington Post reported that the "artist" who wrote BORF all over the DC area was caught. 18-year-old John Tsombikos was arrested on Wednesday for defacing many important and not so important pieces of property around these parts. He marked everything from the Roosevelt Bridge to a random garbage can and lightpost.



He said he was making political statements and the like, but I don't think they came across that well. I didn't really mind the markings since they weren't on my property. Some DC folks enjoyed playing a game to see where his work would be found next. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it too had I heard about it. This is reminiscent of the "All your base are belong to us" writings from a few years ago. That one I enjoyed since I was "in" on the game of finding the next appearance.

(I'm not sure why the following was even written, but my mind tends to wander so bare with me)

Perhaps life itself is a scavenger hunt in which we're all hunting for different things. Whether we're actively trying to find means for more money and material goods, or finding avenues to experience certain emotions, each day is filled with scavenger hunts that we must figure out how to complete. To maintain a a quality of life and buy things we need and desire, we go to work to help us reach that goal, just as we begin social and professional friendships, as well as romantic relationships to experience emotions. When an undesired emotion is felt, we start looking for ways to feel differently, thereby starting our hunt over with a new strategy.

I've run out of philosophical steam for now so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead (or maybe I'm really behind). Anyway, it's Friday and time for a nap.

Lonny Baxter wins another championship

One of the most enjoyable players to watch during Maryland's 2002 championship basketball season, Lonny Baxter has won another title - this time with Panathinaikos of Greece's professional basketball league.



Though he doesn't start, it's a good sign he still knows how to win. Now if the website could just spell Maryland the same way it did in his bio, instead of "Merilant" later on, things might improve for Lonny. Whenever I ran into him in my apartment complex or even in Cole Field House, he was always nice and accommodating. Keep fighting Lonny, you'll get back to the NBA soon enough.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wrapping up Walt Disney World

After documenting my family vacation in Walt Disney World (WDW) with extremely overdone detail (just to make sure the point hits home), I have a few concluding thoughts on WDW.

WDW really is a Never Land (not to be confused with Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch). It's a dreamworld with its litterless walkways and absolute safety from any crime. Everybody is so nice (except the French waiters) that you can't help, but be just as nice to everyone you meet. People in line that you'd find annoying in the supermarket, suddenly aren't "too" talkative, but instead they're just very friendly. Though the bag search at the park's entrance is done by a rent-a-cop, there is never any fear of pickpockets or other crime occuring in the park's borders. Good luck hearing a curse out of anyone (except if you sat next to me on the adult rides). Though a 16-year-old is in critical condition after riding the Tower of Terror that we went on five days ago, the park really is a safe place to visit.



WDW is a very expensive experience. As already written, park passes really cost an arm and a leg (I've always wondered how much an arm and a leg actually goes for these days) and when the weather is very hot in the summer, eventually you'll end up buying food and water just to keep upright. While some meals and food stops aren't too pricey, at the end of the day you will look in your wallet and wonder where all of you money went. To visit WDW and save cash, stay off the resort property, rent a car to drive to the park, make your own breakfast in your hotel and/or stuff your face at a buffet so you can make it until 5ish before your next meal. At that point, you can either bite the money-eating bullet and eat on the property or call it a day and eat anywhere not WDW.

If you don't do well walking amongst huge throngs of people, the Magic Kingdom and MGM might give you some problems. Epcot was fairly wide open and easy to get around. It's also key to plan your trip and the 3 rides/attractions you definitely want to accomplish in each park. Try to get yourself out of bed early so you can not only use the great FastPass option, but then wait in line for the other rides and enjoy them until it's time to use the FastPass. Also, make it a point to talk with the other people waiting for the ride. If you're going to stand next to them for 45 minutes, you should at least say hi and ask them where they're from - it's all part of the WDW experience and doesn't cost extra.

If we experienced any must-do attractions at WDW, you should visit the Aerosmith Rock n' Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror (if your health is up to it (sorry, bad pun)), Mission: Space (if you want the possibility of seeing what you just ate for lunch), Space Mountain (the precursor of the Aerosmith ride, but still just as fun) and the Mad Tea Party or spinning teacups (always a classic). Other attractions were just okay and we could have done without like the Buzz Lightyear shooting ride (just try to beat my 61,900 points!), the Muppets 3-D movie (for a little comic relief and some average 3-D scenes), Soarin' (felt like a short ride), Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride's surprise was pretty good, but animatronic chickens get old very fast), and Test Track (for it being Disney's longest ride, the last 10 seconds are the only good part). Some attractions really disappointed us like Stitch's Great Escape (very short and not very entertaining after being harnessed into our seats, we didn't move), and Living With the Land (unimpressive and who cares about new ways to grow tomatos?).

Unfortunately we didn't get to try Body Wars because it is out of season (who knew an indoor ride has its own seasons), and some of the shows like the Extreme Stunt Show and maybe Indiana Jones might have been decent. We didn't visit Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, or either waterpark, but heard the 3-D bugs movie in Animal Kingdom was good.

Ok, ok, I think we've all had our fill of WDW this week, so it's time to return the blog to your regularly schedule reading. And you thought you wouldn't miss my entries on poor common courtesy, bad drivers, and problems I'm already having with my brand new car.

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For the rest of my Disney World visit, checkout my other Disney trip blog entries:

My pre-trip WDW thoughts:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/im-going-to-disneyworld-but-didnt-win.html

My time at WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/greetings-from-disneyworld.html

More WDW Thoughts
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/who-goes-to-walt-disney-world-in-july.html


For the rest of my blog full of rants, raves, and attempts at humor, its current address is:

http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com

Monday, July 11, 2005

Who goes to Walt Disney World in July?

...oh, that's right, I am the smart one that went to Florida in July when the temperature reached into the 90s with a nice touch of humidity. I think everyone in the park sweated through their shirts, so staying hydrated was a bit tough, but we survived. Anyway, after my (exciting?) real blogging post on Thursday, I had left to visit the fancy French restaurant, so believe it or not, that's where we're going to pickup our story.

The food was quite tasty at "Chefs de France", but the service was really lacking. Maybe it was an anti-American sentiment from the French student waiters or maybe the kitchen was really slow, but we waited long periods of time between our appetizers and entrees. Our desserts eventually arrived, but they seemed to reach our table in a reasonable time. When my dad asked for another napkin or straw, there just wasn't this air of friendliness throughout the restaurant. Fortunately none of our money went their way with our dinner passes, so it's all a moot point. One highlight was watching the fireworks at night from our dinner seats. We walked around the rest of France before heading back to the hotel.

The original plan for Friday was to visit the adult rides at Epcot in the morning and then see my mom in the studio at MGM. Well we took our time getting up and skipped out on a morning Epcot visit and went right to the studio. After we were done there we ate at the "Hollywood Brown Derby" next door. I ordered their steak tenderloin that left a lot to be desired. After a quick stop at the hotel for suntan lotion, etc., we walked to Epcot and tried for some FastPass tickets for Soarin', but they were all given out by that time so we bit the bullet and waited over an hour. One aspect of WDW (Walt Disney World) is making smalltalk with your neighbors in line. We met a couple from Arizona and another one from central New Jersey. The best part of waiting in line for this ride was being in A/C and certainly far out of the sun.



The ride was very simple as you sit in your hanglider-like seat (you're never horizontal) and lifted into an IMAX-like screen that shows you flying over bridges, water, mountains of snow, and other places like a battleship in San Diego. A cool feature is how the air changes depending on the video, such as the smell of pine needles while we flew over a forest. The ride would have been helped with more flying over edges/ridges like the top of a mountain or some tree tops, so it looks like you won't make it over and you think you have to pickup your feet to help things along.

By now it was 5:45 and our reservation for dinner was at 7, so we walked toward the two other rides we wanted to checkout - Mission: Space and Test Track expecting a long wait. For some reason the estimated wait for Mission: Space was 5 minutes (perhaps it was because a young kid died on that ride last month, but he had previous medical problems). We couldn't believe the short wait so my dad, sister, and I (as mom can't handle the scarier rides) waited all of 5 minutes. This ride was cool as we were made into a four-person team thanks to Frank from Denmark. I was the engineer, and like the other jobs, when one of two lights lit, I had to press it. This ride puts you in a cage that is part of a centrifuge that lets you feel some real G's as the force of gravity is multiplied during our launch and other moments. My stomach felt a bit queasy afterward, but not enough for me to lose my steak lunch (a little too much information?). We had 45 minutes before dinner, so my dad and I went on Test Track, while my mom and sister walked through the other countries.

(If you're still reading this entry, it appears you're very bored, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.)

Test Track had a 55-minute wait for standby and only 15 minutes for single riders. We waited as singles for about 10 minutes and were put in separate cars that were all of a minute apart. This ride was quite easy and wasn't too much fun until the end where you take a banked curve at about 60 MPH. This ride wasn't worth the wait, but at least we tried it out. All of us eventually made it to our 7 PM reservation at the "Flying Fish". Again, we were fortunate to have dinner tickets for this meal (with entrees going around $30 we weren't about to forget the tickets).

This meal was the best we had at WDW. I like to say we were perfect with everything we ordered, going 12 for 12 (4 appetizers, 4 entrees, and 4 desserts). For appetizers, we had calimari, crabcake, mussels, and another appetizer that I can't recall. They all tasted really good. The mussels were very impressive b/c they slipped right out of their shells into a wonderful sauce. As purveyors of great crabcakes, the restaurant certainly seasoned theirs well and only breaded the outside, leaving a fair amount of meat to enjoy.



For the main course, we had red snapper, mahi mahi, spice-crusted yellowfin tuna, and salmon. All of the meals were phenomenal, and this is coming from someone who doesn't always like seafood, so you know it was good. The mahi mahi was really good and cooked perfectly with it flaking away very easily. For dessert we had the chocolate souffle, strawberry napoleon, cherry crepes, and a carmalized peach tart. Our bill was around $240 (so for the umpteenth time) it was nice having the dinner tickets that we only had to sign and walk away. We normally wouldn't order an appetizer and dessert for each of us, but like this whole trip, if someone else is paying, you might as well indulge.

Afterward, we watched a magician on the boardwalk who did classic slight-of-hand tricks and provided some laughs. My sister and I thought about going to Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island, but didn't think it would be worth the $45 for about 2.5 hours there. So my mom, sister, and I hit the (disturbingly) warm pool and waterslide. The pool was actually warm from the hot weather and felt really good. The waterslide was fun and quite fast for a resort's pool.

We got up the next day and said goodbye to the parents whose flight was at noon. My sister and I ate the ESPN Club (it's like an ESPNZone without the games). There was a live ESPN Radio broadcast while we ate that asked for comments from the eaters for a sports idiot of the week. Of course, I had to open my big mouth and mentioned the Yankee fan who didn't catch two homerun balls that hit him in the hands, as well as a cheapshot at Puke, I mean duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and his annoying American Express commercials. After the segment, they gave me and the other veracious eaters a t-shirt which was a nice way to end things. My sister and I took our limo/taxi to the airport and flew back to our homes.

If you've read the WDW recap this far, I will have some concluding thoughts and WDW lessons tomorrow (or whenever I get around to it). I swear that will be the end of my WDW thoughts for now. Thanks for reading this far.

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For the rest of my Disney World visit, checkout my other Disney trip blog entries:

My pre-trip WDW thoughts:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/im-going-to-disneyworld-but-didnt-win.html

My time at WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/greetings-from-disneyworld.html

Tips, attraction reviews, and final thoughts from WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/wrapping-up-walt-disney-world.html


For the rest of my blog that is full of rants, raves, and attempts at humor, its current address is:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Greetings from Disneyworld

For the first time, I'm actually blogging as it's meant to be, with up to the minute news and postings as things happen (and without any proofreading). Disneyworld sure is a great place to visit on someone else's dime. If you make it out here, beware of very slow walkers, especially during the fireworks (really can't blame them), and make it a point to use the Disney FastPass where you schedule when you'll get in line.

With no pressure to see everything, we have concentrated on 3 or 4 rides in each park. Yesterday was the Magic Kingdom with the spinning teacups, Toy Story shooting game (high score by me with 61,900), Lilo and Stitch animatronic ride (not as good as it could have been), Space Mountain (a must on any Disney trip), and pirates of the carribbean (no time for spell check) which was another animatronic ride that was pretty good.

We made dinner reservations for this seafood restaurant near the hotel, but we cancelled that to stay in the Kingdom through the night for the light parade and fireworks. Of course, when we walked around to find a place to eat, all of them were booked for the rest of the night so we just scarfed down some hotdogs. The light parade was pretty neat (did I just say something was "neat"?), but the real highlight was the fireworks show that ended with a ton of them criss-crossing over the castle.

So far today at MGM, we knocked out this ride designed to brainwash us with some sort of "save mother nature" belief, whatever that is, crazy Disney. It had a short wait so it wasn't all bad. This afternoon my sister, dad, and I did the Muppets 3-d show (just as much as I recalled 10 years ago), Aerosmith rollercoaster that was really great. Think of it as a modern take on Space Mountain with a completely dark ride with a loop, corkscrew, and 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, and then we did the Tower of Terror. Oh yeah, the other thing about Aerosmith is we did the FastPass on this one that made our wait in line all of 5 minutes, instead of the 45-minute wait for standby.

The tower ride shook us up more than Aerosmith thanks to 5 free falls before finally being dropped all the way down. They really improved this ride from 10 years ago when you were "just" dropped from the 13th floor and that was it. Now with multiple mini-drops, you can't prepare yourself for the big fall since you really don't know when it's going to happen.

Tonight we're having dinner in France and hoping to catch a ride in Epcot amongst the human body experience, Soarin (where you do a virtual hang glide), and Mission: Space (or something like that). Tomorrow is more Epcot and whatever else we can fit. I think we're going to visit Pleasure Island as well if time permits, etc.

That's it for now since we've got a reservation for 8, but maybe I'll actually do a legit live blog entry two days in a row.

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For the rest of my Disney World visit, checkout my other Disney trip blog entries:

My pre-trip WDW thoughts:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/im-going-to-disneyworld-but-didnt-win.html

More WDW Thoughts
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/who-goes-to-walt-disney-world-in-july.html

Tips, attraction reviews, and final thoughts from WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/wrapping-up-walt-disney-world.html


For the rest of my blog that is full of rants, raves, and attempts at humor, its current address is:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I'm going to Disneyworld (but didn't win a major sports championship)!

To the blogging world's greatest fans, I must let you know that my blog will not be updated again until late Saturday evening, or most likely on Sunday. I'm leaving for an all-expenses-paid trip to the gigantic land mass known as Disneyworld. I'd let you know how it really is free, but that would take too long and I'd have to kill you afterward. The thing about this destination choice is we would never have chosen Disneyworld as a summer trip, but ya can't complain when it's free.

I'm sure going to Orlando in the middle of the summer isn't the best move because of the heat and incredibly long lines, but we'll tough it out for a few days. I've begun to prepare myself for the slow walkers in the park and being extra careful not to step on (accidently to be sure) any small children running around the park.

One thing we are looking forward to is recreating two scary moments we experienced some 20 years ago at the park. One is taking a trip on the Pirates of the Carribbean ride. Last time we went, my sister apparently freaked out and got really scared from the windowed submarine. The other event for us to play out is at the castle, where my parents left me in my stroller for a minute or two before realizing that I wasn't with them. We laugh about it now, but the old joke is whether or not they actually got the right kid back...chortle, chortle, chortle. That's it for now, enjoy your time away from the blog, as I promise to come back with a vengeance.

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For the rest of my Disney World visit, checkout my next two blog entries:

My time at WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/greetings-from-disneyworld.html

More WDW Thoughts
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/who-goes-to-walt-disney-world-in-july.html

Tips, attraction reviews, and final thoughts from WDW:
http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com/2005/07/wrapping-up-walt-disney-world.html


For the rest of my blog full of rants, raves, and attempts at humor, its current address is:

http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Maury Povich: Yet another guilty pleasure

My 4th of July was pretty uneventful, but the rest of the weekend turned out pretty well. I had a BBQ Saturday night, played ultimate frisbee in DC on Sunday without getting hurt (but my knee hurt going upstairs afterward), and had some nice meals in between. Due to the always enjoyable DC road closures for the fireworks, my viewing plans went up in smoke (haha, or no?). So Monday was a real day to be a hermit. I had good intentions except our AC stopped working so things got a little hot in the apartment when I wasn't in front of my fan. Anyway, I got to indulge in the glory of daytime television and learned a few things.

First of all, daytime TV really sucks outside of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. They provide great comic relief while making you feel better about yourself. Jerry's topics included: A woman suspects her boyfriend is cheating with her best friend; a man begs forgiveness for sleeping with his wife's stepmother; a woman suspects her man is messing around with her friend. He really knows how to get the best out of America. Once you realize how staged the show really is, you can begin to enjoy its lunacy and audience taunts. We know they're all paid to pretend they had affairs with their wife's stepmother, so why not enjoy this modern take on a classic Shakespearean play (though I'm not sure which one). Jerry's antics do get a little old by the second half-hour, but there isn't much competition in his time slot, unless you count the "Magic School Bus."



Unlike Springer, Maury's show really demands your attention the entire 60 minutes. I'm convinced the show's producers only use five topics: paternity tests revealed, is he or she a man or woman?, straighten up my out of control teen by sending him/her to boot camp, shocking secrets/affairs revealed, and some sort of makeover or make the guest feel better about themselves show.



Fortunately, Monday's episode was one of my favorite topics...paternity tests revealed. The swing of emotions is akin to the back-and-forth of great gladiator battles. Monday's show featured a husband and wife who didn't know if their son was really his or if it is from an affair she had a year earlier. Before finding out the results, the husband went off on the woman saying what you'd expect a cheated on person to say. Of course, on the flip side, he promised to be the father his father wasn't if the kid is in fact his. It's always good to berate someone when you're not sure if you really need to in the first place. The emotions really run the gamut. The results showed it was his kid so all was happy in Mauryland. Granted, much like Springer, there is some nice acting thanks to some cheap wigs and clearly odd couples that have never been together, but it's still fun.



I admit my favorite tests involve a woman who brings out at least 4 guys she thinks could be the child's father. Not only does this say a lot about the woman, but as each guy is found not to be the father, they make it a point to tell everyone what we're thinking about someone who brings that many people out. It may appear sad and in any normal and sane environment, I'd feel bad for the child, mother, and father, but the truth is, the whole scene is a sham which makes it safe and wholesome for the whole family. I take some comfort knowing it's all for show and is supposed to make me feel better about myself.

There's nothing like Schadenfreude - taking pleasure from the misfortunes of others.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Yeah, but can he help me study for the GRE math section?

59-year-old Akira Haraguchi of Japan, looks to have set the world record for remembering pi to the most places. He recalled pi to the 83,431st decimal place. For those to long removed from their pre-college math days, pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter used in all sorts of geometric equations.

Haraguchi started reciting numbers Friday morning, but lost his place around 16,000 (I hate it when that happens) and started over until he reached his current record. He didn't reach that mark until midnight on Saturday.

As expected, there are lots of sites devoted to the greatness of pi, which also is celebrated every March 14 (3/14...how cute). There's a pi research page that lets you search for any number string and see where and how often it appears in the first 200 million pi digits. If you'd like, you can see the first 100,000 digits. There was also a 1998 movie call Pi for whatever that's worth.



A supercomputer calculated pi to 1.24 trillionth decimal places in 2002, but the actual number doesn't have much usage past the first 10 places or so in normal activities.

Curious to see how you'd stack (or count) up to Haraguchi? Here are the first 1,000 pi decimal places...time to start remembering:

3.
141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944

592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647

093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559

644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165

271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273

724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360

011330530548820466521384146951941511609433057270365759591953

092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749567351885752724

891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737

190702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132

000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901

224953430146549585371050792279689258923542019956112129021960

864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951

059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035

261931188171010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303

598253490428755468731159562863882353787593751957781857780532

17122680661300192787661119590921642019

Friday, July 01, 2005

KITT - My 1997 Grand Prix Has Passed Away

Writing an obituary for the raccoon I (may or may not have) hit earlier this week wasn't too difficult since there was no emotional attachment to the critter. However, writing my goodbyes to a car I cared so much about will prove much more difficult. My car and I have been through some really rough times together over the last four years, but trust me, the good far outweighed the bad.



I bought my black 1997 Grand Prix during spring break in March of 2001 and boy did I think I was stylin' and profilin'. It had about 25k on it and was a sweet car. We traded in the family's 1988 Delta 86 and this sure was an upgrade. It had leather seats, a trip computer with MPG, miles until next fill, oil life, gas used, a heads-up-display (so the speed and even radio station appeared on the windshield), sunroof, heated driver seat, a cassette deck (must have just missed the CD rush), steering wheel cruise control and radio controls, and a few other power features. The biggest improvement between a 1986 and 1997 car was a cupholder! This was a huge leap forward in car driving technology - trust me on this one.



Thanks to its coupe design, great engine, and on-board computer of sorts, my natural nickname for the Grand Prix was KITT. If you don't know where the name KITT is from, then it seems you have lived an incredibly sheltered life (I think I'm joking). KITT stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand and is the name for the black corvette driven in "Knight Rider" by Mr. Baywatch himself, the singer (that's not a typo) that's unbelievably adored in Germany, the one and only, Mr. David Hasselhoff. The car's computer was voiced by Mr. Feeny from "Boy Meets World." Anyway, my car reminded me of KITT and it also helped that I used to love watching Knight Rider, more so to sarcastically mock.



My KITT was a good looking sporty car, with a great powertrain anchored by a V-6 engine and great handling. It was the right car for my age. Unfortunately, 6 months after getting the car, a tornado came by my apartment in college and obliterated KITT's windows and really left her with some nice bruises. Undaunted, she picked herself off the ground (bad pun) and rode really well for the next year and a half.

But alas, KITT began showing signs of age. She was now 6 or 7 years old and still ran very well. However, everything else outside of her powertrain started to go, and go quickly at that. KITT had common problems you'd expect from any car in its 6th or 7th year with a few major issues like leaking anti-freeze. Though in the last year, KITT really began falling apart.



For the last year, it had become very apparent to me (thanks to my friends and family) that I really needed to get a new car. KITT may drive well, but that's not good when the weather is either really cold or really hot and the things used to keep you comfortable haven't been available to you in over a year.

And trust me, having a car with a few physical problems didn't always make for a great impression with the ladies.

While it's poor etiquette to put someone else's problems out there, KITT and I have reached closure so I feel okay doing this. In the last week of my time with KITT, she maintained the following issues, in no particular order with bolded issues of major concern (many of which may have been delayed problems from the tornado):

-Non-working A/C, heat, and defroster fan. The air was cooled or heated as requested, but barely exited the vents.
-Depending on the weather, the sunroof would just lift, but not go back, so it wasn't usable and just returned to its starting position.
-Both power windows lowered fine, but midway up, they had to be rocked back and forth to gain momentum and complete the closing. Sometimes, I had to put my fingers on the window and help raise it the rest of the way. Also, it never really had and airtight seal once it was up.
-A hole has been forming down to the undercarriage beneath my driving foot's ankle placement.
-There are two light blue streaks on the leather driver's panel from resting my suntan-covered arm there for one 30-minute drive. They really can't be removed because they're on leather.
-One of the equalizer buttons fell off the radio.



-Two months ago, after placing the car into park, the car didn't recognize it was in that position, which means the key could not return to the "lock" position, so it was impossible to remove the key from the ignition. Therefore, I have had to put a sheet over the steering wheel everytime I parked the car so as not to let outsiders know.
-In the last week, the car started slipping between gears, especially 1st and 2nd and a blue-white smoke began exiting the muffler.
-Water that normally condenses in a drip pan and then out the car was clogged/blocked which soaked the front passenger foot area, much to everyone's lovely surprise after a long drive. It's clear the A/C was working because of this, but just lacked a working fan to blow the cooled air to the car's inside.
-Generally, the interior remained clean, but after 9 years, the interior siding and components weren't held together as tightly as they once were.

Amazingly, the computer, heads-up-display, engine, and overall ride never suffered or showed any signs of slowing down while I drove KITT. KITT will be missed for her smooth ride, great acceleration, and terrific handling. Though her extras like AC, heat, defrosting, and power windows, etc., may have left her long ago, she won't be forgotten (until I really start to drive the car I just bought).




So for the last 3 months, I had been test driving many cars and as of Wednesday night, KITT was traded in for a 2005 silver Nissan Altima 3.5 SE with the kickin' stereo package, sunroof, xenon headlights, and spoiler. It sure is new with just 7 miles to its name. While I'm still unsure that the A/C will work, I'm slowly letting myself believe it will, just don't put your feet down in the passenger seat to play it safe.

I proudly welcome myself to the 21st century...woohoo!

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For the rest of my blog full of rants, raves, and attempts at humor, its current address is:

http://bandtcrowd.blogspot.com