Dec 29, 2006

'The Carousel of Progress' Song

It's funny, one of our favorite rides at the Magic Kingdom is the 'Carousel of Progress'. It's Walt Disney's own idea, and it's pretty cool. Guests enter a theatre for an animatronic show about progress in the 20th century. The show follows a man named John and his family as they experience the growth of technology. In between scenes, the theatre turns and rotates around the center stage. When it comes to rest again, you are viewing the same family (their ages don't change) experiencing a later period of the century.
In between scenes, as the theatre is rotating, the characters all sing this really catchy song. After our last trip, I finally got all the words in the right place. So, for posterity, I present the lyrics to "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow".

There's a great big beautiful tomorrow,
Shining at the end of every day.
Yes, there's a great big beautiful tomorrow,
And tomorrow is just a day away.

Man has a dream, and that's the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality,
It's a dream come true for you and me.

Oh there's a great big beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day,
Yes there's a great big beautiful tomorrow -
Just a day away!

Dec 28, 2006

Accosted at EPCOT

Just before Christmas, my wife and I went to DisneyWorld for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It was a real blast! We visited all four parks in two days, finishing at Magic Kindom for the big party. They have special shows, a Christmas parade with Santa and they serve hot chocolate and cookies. It was great. All the parks, resorts and restaurants were decorated for Christmas, and we were able to visit all the attractions we were interested in seeing.

I even got to visit a particular character that I had never met before, and if luck serves me, will never meet again.

We were at Epcot, waiting for the next showing of “Honey, I Blew up the Audience” (a 3D interactive show). We were sitting outside of the theatre, watching the water spouts jump from pot to pot, and watching other guests interact with them. It was a sunny, picturesque day. There was a building nearby with a sign that declared, “Meet Figment” (the purple dragon from the “Journey Into Imagination” attraction). Apparently, no one was ‘Meeting Figment’ so he wandered outside to drum up some attention. No one was around, so he just looked pitiful – waving and motioning for people to come over. There were only a few of us who saw him. I waved, but the others were clearly ignoring him, so he went back inside.

I felt bad for the poor creature, so I tried to get Angela to go in with me. She clearly didn’t want to, despite my persistent nagging, so I went by myself. I took the PhotoPass card on the off chance that a photographer would be there to capture my magical moment. When I first entered, there was a small queue line made up of funhouse-type mirrors that distort your reflection. Then you come around a corner and BAM! There’s Figment.

He was overjoyed to see me, so I gave him the obligatory character hug, and noticed that he was holding on a little too long. I looked around at all three of his handlers, but no one had a camera. So I turned my attention back to the dragon. I gave him a high-five, and said things like, “Hey Figment”, “What’s up”, “Nice to see you” and “How’s it going?” but you can only talk to a silent character for so long before it gets awkward. (They’re not allowed to talk, you know.) It got awkward really fast. His handlers didn’t talk to me, they were just watching. They seemed nice enough…they were probably just trying to figure out what this 28-year old guy was doing with Figment.

Suddenly it became obvious to me that there was no easy exit to this dilemma. I wanted to leave, but Figment clearly didn’t want me to go. I briefly thought about retreating through the mirrored queue, but decided that would look really bad. There was actually a set of glass double doors opposite me, but one problem remained – Figment was blocking the way.

I know he saw me look desperately at the doors – I’m sure he decided at that moment that he wasn’t going to make it easy. I kept hoping someone else would come up behind me, and I could dart out when Figment greeted them, but no one else was fool enough to walk in.

I finally just turned my head and made for the door. Figment grabbed my hand and tried to shake it. I pulled away and pushed on the door…but it didn’t open.

I turned and looked at Figment. Even though his costume hadn’t changed from that same goofy look and broad smile, I could tell he was relishing this latest development. He stared at me for a split-second, just long enough for me to acknowledge that I was helpless, before he pushed a silver button on the wall. The doors slowly started to open…and I didn’t waste a second. As soon as I thought I could fit, I attempted to slide between the doors - a move that caused a real commotion. I felt like a trapped rat, and I had to get out!

Then, finally, I was outside in the sunshine again. I took off walking as fast as possible, and didn’t look back.

By the way, “Honey, I Blew up the Audience” is definitely worth skipping. It’s old, and the effects are a little out of whack – all you really get out of it is a headache. And while we’re on the subject, don’t ever sit in the front row for “Ellen’s Energy Adventure”. Though the ride itself is slow-moving, sitting in the front row and watching the 360° video/animatronic presentation will make you wicked sick. Trust me on this – go for the middle.

Oh yeah, and stay away from Figment!

The perpetrator, with another unsuspecting guest.

Dec 13, 2006

Craft Time With The Schmidts

Last weekend, my wife and I made some Christmas Light Balls. They seemed simple enough to make - just glue some cups together and stick lights in them. So we found some instructions on the internet (click here), and decided to go for it.

We started where anyone would start - Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, they were all sold out of clear punch cups. We did manage to get the lights, and went to the local Party Universe to get the cups. They did have cups, but they were $10 for 100! We wanted to make 4 balls, and the instructions told us we needed 50 cups per ball, so that worked out to $20 on cups. The project was starting to get expensive. We had thought about getting a glue gun, but the instructions mentioned you could also use a stapler. Seeing as how we had just spent the entire budget on cups, we decided to head home at that point.

When we got home, we were excited about getting started. We got out the electric drill, and began drilling holes in the bottom of the cups – well, we tried to. The problem was that the cups were too brittle, too thin…too expensive! They had no give. They didn’t bend, they cracked like glass. Every one we attempted to drill into cracked and became unusable. When I tried to put a staple in one of them, it split down the side. It was becoming very obvious that we were not going to be able to use our $20 cups.

We drove up to the Winn-Dixie and found some Solo cups, but they were bigger than we wanted. The instructions recommend that you use clear 9 oz punch glasses, but all they had at the store were frosted 12 oz cups. So, we bought a sleeve and took them home for testing. The drilling and stapling went much better, but because they were the wrong size, the ball was growing out of control. We used all 50 cups and only finished 1 side of the ball! At this point, we were desperate to see some results, so we put the purple lights into the cups and turned it on. It looked cool, but not awesome. We briefly considered hanging a half a ball on the side of the house, and then decided to go to the Publix across town and see what they had in the way of cups.

We were still bitter about spending the $20 on the first batch of cups, so we asked ourselves a question: “What do you do with 196 expensive punch glasses?”

Answer: “Return them!”

I was skeptical at first, but Angela convinced me. So we put all the expensive cups back into the package. Problem. The package with 96 cups was clearly shorter than the package that still had 100. So we opened the fresh pack, and moved 2 cups into the other. Then we put the twisty-ties back on, and they looked great! We were ready to hit the road. Again.

At Publix, we found exactly what we wanted! Clear, 9 oz Solo punch cups. We got 200 for about $8, and also decided to buy some red and green cups to make a festive, multi-color ball with white lights. Publix is near Party Universe, so I was able to return the cups (he, he) without incident. Angela waited in the car because one of her students worked there, and we didn’t want them to be able to identify us if the deal went sour.

When we got home, we went to work. Now that we had the right materials, the job went fast. Angela drilled the holes (it works best if you drill a stack of cups all at once) and then handed the cups to me. I stapled the cups together, and then Angela stuffed the lights into the cups. The tricky part is bending and manipulating the cups so they all fit together just right. After 2 or 3 balls, you definitely get the hang of it!

Staples were a good way to go, but sometimes they malfunction and you have to pull them back out. Angela had the hardest job, by far! You have to put two lights in each cup, and the holes aren’t quite big enough. This prevents the lights from slipping back out, but is a real headache for the person trying to get them in there in the first place. I should know - I did about 25 before I stopped!

We completed two balls on Friday (the blue one and the purple one), and made a red ball and a multicolored ball on Saturday. It was like a sweatshop! When we started to make the ball with the red and green cups, we noticed that those cups were more difficult to work with. They were harder to drill, and they split when you stapled them. We put some lights in them and decided they looked great, so we decided to get a glue gun and finish the project. We went to Wal-Mart, and found one for $1.67! Score! It’s tiny, but it did the job. The only problem is that you have to hold the cups together so the glue will set. You know the glue is done setting when the hot, burning sensation goes away (the cups are not insulated very well). I’m glad we took the extra time to do the red & green ball – it looks really cool.

So that was our fun, crafting adventure. My hands are still cramped from all the stapling and gluing, but you know what? Those light balls look good!

Dec 12, 2006

My ESPN ‘Best Ball Challenge’ Fantasy Golf Team

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking…fantasy golf? Really? I admit the concept sounds stupid, but it really is pretty cool. Plus, it’s free! It’s called “Best Ball Challenge” and it’s hosted through ESPN. You get a specified amount of money, and have to spend it on the players that can give you the most bang for the buck. I went with Tiger and VJ for obvious reasons, but they were pretty expensive. So I found a mid-level and a low-level that I could fit under the $$ limit to round out the foursome (you have to pick four). I decided that 2 champs and 2 cheapies were better than say, 4 mid- to high-level players.

After each of the 37 tournaments this season, the players’ values change based on their performance. If they go up, you’re in luck – because the price you hired them at is locked. If the values go down, you can re-negotiate to get that player at the lower amount. That frees up funds. You can also drop/add players whenever you wish.

MY STRATEGY: As the season progresses, I will keep checking values and renegotiating whenever I can. Naturally, a player’s value should curve up and down through the season. As I free up funds, I’ll keep dropping and upgrading the lowest-valued player to the max that I can afford at that time. I’ll rely on Tiger and VJ to bring in the points at first, until I can work my way up the roster.

Want your own fantasy golf team? Click here. You can compete against me. I’m in the “300 is a good score” group. My entry is called “Balls of Fire”.

What’s next? I think I’m going to start my own “Fantasy Diving” team, or maybe “Fantasy Table Tennis”.

Dec 8, 2006

Kermit the Frog and Sesame Street’s Ernie Have the Same Voice!

No lie! I listened to some clips of both of them talking, and they have the exact same voice. I can’t believe I never noticed it before. Obviously, they are both visual characters, so you don’t need to hear their voices to recognize them. And when Ernie opens his mouth, you’re not thinking about Kermit (and vice versa) so you would probably never make the connection.

And I’m not just saying Jim Henson does the voices – I’m saying he uses the same voice for both characters. Think about it…imagine Ernie saying “Hiya, Bert. Whatchya doin’ with that newspaper, Bert? Are you reading it, Bert?” Now imagine Kermit saying, “Hi-ho, this is Kermit the Frog. We’ve got a very special production for you this evening.” SAME VOICE.

When I heard the voices on the radio together, I was blown away. Seriously! Now this is news!

Nov 28, 2006

ESPN College Pick'Em 2006 Results

This college football season I participated in the ESPN College Pick’Em. Every week for 13 weeks, you have to pick the winners in 10 different college matchups, and assign each game a unique confidence point level from 1 - 10. At the end of the season, I had amassed 588 points out of a total possible 715. I ended up beating Mike Golic by 5 points, which was the whole point of the game. I finished in the top 93% of all contestants, but still came in 16,191st place. Sounds good, but you know what they say… 16,191st is the 16,190th loser! You can view my ESPN fantasy profile here: .

While we’re on the subject of sports, how great is it that Miami finished 6-6, just like FSU? I thought we were having a horrible season, but as long as Miami is doing as crappy as us, that makes it all OK. Besides, they lost their head coach over it, and we only lost our offensive coordinator (which is a real blessing in my opinion). Coincidentally, we were also both 3-5 in the ACC.

How funny would it be if FSU had to play Miami in a bowl game? We could both be in the “Freeze Your Keister Off” bowl in North Dakota or something.

Nov 22, 2006

It Happened One Morning on the Way to Work

Last Friday I forgot to “cook” breakfast before I left for work – which means I forgot to microwave a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese croissant breakfast sandwich. So on my way to work I stopped by a Burger King that sits off of Hwy 77 in a Winn-Dixie parking lot. Naturally, I ordered the Number 1 breakfast combo (sausage, egg and cheese croissant breakfast sandwich). It comes with little round hashbrowns and a Coke.

This particular Burger King is extremely fast in delivering orders, and I still had my change in my hand when the cashier handed me my bag. Well, trying to keep up the fast service, I set the bag onto the passenger seat and drove away. I saw that the traffic was really thick on the highway and knew it would be time-consuming to try and get across the opposite lanes, so I decided to take Hwy 390 as an alternate route.

To get to 390, I had to make a succession of left-hand turns around the Burger King and then maneuver through the Winn-Dixie parking lot. Keep in mind I have dollars and coins in my left hand, and a straw and napkins in my right hand, so don’t judge me when I tell you I was steering with my elbows. The first turn went okay, but I cut the second turn a little too sharp which sent the food bag careening onto its side, and I could hear “plop, plop, plop” as the hashbrowns began rolling out of the bag and onto the floorboard one by one.

I needed to regroup. I pulled into the nearest Winn-Dixie parking space and set the bag upright, saving about five hashbrowns. I calmly put my change into the tray, the bills in my wallet and the wallet into my pocket. I put the napkins into the glove box and put the straw into the drink. Now to clean up the spilled hashbrowns. I unlocked the passenger’s side door and went around to that side of the car. I opened the door and began collecting the hashbrowns.

This part is very critical - no hashbrown ever touched the pavement, or left my hand. In fact, I was picking them up with one hand and placing them into the other very discreetly and efficiently. Soon though, I realized there were gulls flocking all around me. Now, I’m no ornithological expert, but I honestly think these birds could smell the grease from the hashbrowns. They couldn’t have possibly seen the fried potatoes. I know for a fact that when I got out of the car, there weren’t any birds around. Then all of a sudden the sky went black. It’s like they could smell the hashbrowns from a distance - kind of like sharks smell blood in the water - and they reacted with the same voracity. It was like a feeding frenzy!

I had just finished picking up the mess when I heard the first “splat!” Then another, and then it sounded like it was slowly raining big, fat raindrops. Oh, yeah. You know what it was. The hungry, ravenous birds were bombarding me in anger! I’m sure the first few “bombs” were warning shots, but I saw the look in their eye, and they saw the fear in mine. I didn’t dare give in, or they would dive and possibly end up in the car. I carefully put the hashbrowns back into the bag (after emptying its remaining contents), and then made for the driver’s side door. As soon as I shut the passenger’s side door, the birds knew they weren’t getting anything, so they stopped with the niceties and came in for the kill. I had to dance around the car avoiding the aerial assault. I probably looked ridiculous, but I was trying to avoid getting hit. And they were laying it on thick.

I jumped into the driver’s seat and surveyed my clothes to make sure I didn’t get hit. I didn’t. Still not sure how I managed that - I’m not that great of a dancer. But the birds weren’t leaving. I started driving away. The birds followed me. Not wanting to show up to work with a flock of angry gulls in tow, I hatched a plan. There was a delivery truck unloading near the front doors of the Winn-Dixie, so I drove as close to it as possible. When I was right beside it, I tossed out one hashbrown and the birds took the bait. They dove for that piece of fried potato and every one of the nefarious creatures began fighting over it. I wipped around the back of the truck, and drove away as fast as I could using the truck as cover. The birds must have gotten confused, because they didn’t follow me.

Even after I was safely away from the store, I checked the rear-view mirror expecting to see a mad flock of gulls coming in low and fast. But, to my relief, they were nowhere to be found. I said a silent prayer of thanks, and continued on to work.

Oct 18, 2006

My Celebrity Look-a-Likes

Okay, Denzel I get...but the others?

Oct 3, 2006

"Orbital Groove" comes in at #11 in the August 1000 Mosh

Every month, randomly selects 1000 songs from all the songs uploaded in the previous month. My song Orbital Groove was selected, and came in at #11! That’s out of 1000. Awesome!

Mosh voting works like this - you listen to two songs, and pick the one that sounds the best. That’s it! So my song beat out 989 others. If you listen to some of the songs that are below me in the top 25, you’ll find some great compositions—making 11th place pretty sweet! Plus, it’s decided by other AcidPlanet members, so that means a lot.

Usually, I do a lot of mosh voting to help push my song along, but this time I was voting in the Sueca Contest Mosh, not the August 1000. So my song reached #11 all on it’s own. Cool!

Sep 27, 2006

We're on National TV!!

Angela and I at a recent Florida State game - Angela's on the left, I'm on the right.

Saturday, 09-23-06, my wife and I went to Tallahassee and watched a Florida State game. It was against Rice University, and we completely stomped them. We bought our tickets online, so we got to choose where we sat. We found ROW 1 tickets in Section 14, which is right on the goal line. The reason that they were still available was because they were earmarked for Rice, but only a few of their fans felt like traveling all the way from Texas to watch them get beat.

So we were in the first row on the goal line. It was awesome! FSU won 55 - 7, so there were plenty of awesome plays. We got to see the Seminoles punch it into the end zone, and later run it in right along our sideline. We really had a great time. The Rice mascot (an owl named Sammy) kept taunting us, but I shook his hand as a sign of sportsmanship.

The game was nationally televised in front of millions of viewers on ESPN U, and being that we were on the goal line there were plenty of opportunities for us to be on camera. Plus, the Noles been having trouble with their running game, so this clip of Booker's breakout run was probably on SportsCenter--which makes me like, a D-list celebrity (think Carrot Top).

So the next time someone says, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" I can say, " Do you watch SportsCenter? Well then, yes, you do know me!"

Aug 29, 2006

Big Bear Clizzle is The Shizzle!

After leaving the house this morning on my way to work, I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast. Normally, I have a Jimmy Dean suasage, egg and cheese croissant breakfast sandwich. (Mmm, mmm!)

I had to stop and get gas, so I didn't have enough time to hit a drive thru. So once I got to work, I clocked in and headed for the snack machines. I put my dollar in before I looked through the glass, however, and I didn't see anything I wanted. When I pressed the coin return button, I got back $1.50 in quarters! Bonus! Party! Now I had six quarters in my hot little hand and I was off on my quest.

I headed downstairs and found the Cloverleaf Big Bear Claw at the first machine on the ground floor, but the Cloverleaf Big Texas Cinnamon Roll was behind a package of Ms. Freshley's doughnuts. I hit two more breakrooms, but couldn't locate an accessible 'Big Tex'.

I finally found one at the break room furthest from my cube, on the ground floor nearest the cafeteria. Both items were only 75 cents each, so it worked out nicely. Why did I seek out 'Big Tex' so diligently? Hello! The Cloverleaf Big Texas Cinnamon Roll Won the 2005 and 2006 Automatic Merchandiser 'Pastry of the Year'. That should be enough right there! It's taste is the stuff of legend. used to be my favorite. But after trying the Big Bear Claw today, I've changed my mind. The 'Big Bear' now reigns supreme as the ultimate snacking adventure; a gooey goliath that dominates the pre-packaged pastry industry. Look out, 'Big Tex', 'Big Bear' has got a message for you--better enjoy all the perks that come with your prestigious award, becuase he's coming for you in 2007!

Aug 22, 2006

Why Today Cannot Be Opposite Day

As a kid, it always bothered me when my brother or sister would turn my answer around by saying, “Nuh-uh…today’s Opposite Day! No means yes!” And then they would barge into my room, cannibalize my LEGO house for the parts, write on me with crayons, or do some other thing that I had told them not to do. It bothered me because the idea of an ‘Opposite Day’ was not only ludicrous, it was impossible.

The argument is easy enough. It’s not a designated day, so it’s just up to an individual to declare. But if someone says, “Today’s Opposite Day” then they’ve just negated what they’ve stated and it’s really not.

So there!

Aug 17, 2006

I'm an Aries?? Really??

No, not really...

All my life I've been a Pisces. Y'know, the two fish circling each other constantly in perpetual turmoil? Yeah, that's me all the way. But if you check my profile, you'll see that I'm an Aries!

Okay, my birthday is March 20, which is right on the edge. I'm always the last day in Pisces. Several respectable publications like The Enquirer and The Farmer's Almanac will back this up.

My first thought was, "My God, the planets have left their courses and the galaxy is headed for imminent destruction!" I guess might have made some sort of mistake, but c'mon...this is the internet! Grand bastion of truth and warehouse of accurate information.

I checked my profile to make sure I had entered my birthday correctly - I had. I then checked out some online horoscopes, y'know, to rule out the whole 'end of the universe' thing, and they confirmed that I'm a Pisces. Whew!

Maybe is using some horoscope list that was made in Taiwan, or China. No, that can't be right...they got it right on the 'Year of the Horse' thing. I don't know...all I can say is, I guess you can't believe everything you read on the internet (sniffle, sniffle). Except what you read on this blog, of course!

Jul 24, 2006

Devil's Island

Devil's Island - you can see the dry tract of land to the right.
This past Saturday, I took a trip up to Washington County to do a little geocaching. Angela had to take a morning-long test for her teacher certification, so I picked a cache that she had no interest in hunting. This one was on an island in the middle of a sinkhole lake here in North Florida. Recent finders have noted that the lake is drying up, so you can walk to the island in ankle-deep water. Since we don’t own any kind of boat, now was the time to pick this one up.

I did some research in the days leading up to the excursion. I downloaded the waypoint into Google Earth, and mapped out the exact route I wanted to take. I zoomed in close enough to familiarize myself with all the associated road names, and approximate distances. I also printed out satellite maps of the area, just in case I got lost.

On Saturday morning, I loaded the coordinates into the GPS unit, and headed out at about 8:30. It had rained pretty hard on a couple of days previous, so I wore my swimming suit to be on the safe side. The drive through Bay County was nice, and I got a serene early-morning view of Deer Point Lake. I took Star Ave to Hwy 231, 231 to Titus Rd, Titus Rd to CR 2321, and 2321 to Hwy 77. Then it was supposed to be an easy jaunt up into Washington County and on to Dumajack Rd, just past CR 279.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go according to plan. For starters, it was a lot farther away than I had estimated. So, I was relaxing, listening to Car Talk, and cruising along. Apparently, I was too relaxed, as I flew right past 279 and Dumajack Rd. As I was zipping along, I noticed that the road was curvier than I thought it should be. And then I hit the city of Wausau, which I knew was way too far north. Wasn’t it? I got out my satellite map, but it’s really only a picture, not a navigational tool. Wausau isn’t a very big town, and I saw several things on the map right alongside the highway that could have been a small city…or a large farming compound...or a company corporate center...or a new subdivision. I decided to go with my gut and turn around. I did a 180° turn on the highway, and headed back in a southerly direction.

The road straightened out, and I was able to locate myself on the map. From there I was able to find Dumajack Rd pretty easily. Just for curiosity, I wanted to see how I was able to miss 279. I thought, “Maybe it was poorly marked or something.” Quite the contrary. Not only were there two big signs, there was also a flashing light! I cut another 180° turn, and headed back to Dumajack Rd.

Dumajack should have taken me all the way to Porter Lake Road. Unfortunately, it ended about a quarter of the way there. When I say end, I mean it came to a ‘T’ intersection with a road called “Deadening”. I consulted the satellite map, but I saw no such intersection. The roads were paved and worn, so I new they weren’t new. This is another problem with satellite maps. The perception from the air is totally different from the ground view, so what looks like a bend and merge translates to a T-intersection on the ground. It also doesn’t help that the map mislabeled Deadening Road, making it seem that Dumajack bends and continues on. All of this is in hindsight anyway, because at the time I was totally perplexed. So I took a look at the GPS and decided to head south, toward the lake. BTW, our GPS doesn’t show roads. It only shows major highways - which makes it useless for mapping. You can see the point, but not how to get there. :)

Of course as soon as I turned on to Deadening, it turned to clay. Now I was on a road that I didn’t think I was supposed to be on, and it was getting steeper, sandier, and a lot narrower. I went over this wooden “bridge” that was barely 10 feet wide. I twisted, I turned, I looked for any sign that I was going the right way, but found nothing. Everything looks like trees and sand from the air. Finally, I came to Porter Pond Rd. I was supposed to be looking for Porter Lake Rd, but as the roads were mislabeled before, I happily turned on this one heading south. Again, the road seemed to go on a lot longer than it was supposed to, and I thought I should have been at the water by now. So, I consulted the map once again. This time, it clearly showed both Porter Pond and Porter Lake roads, side by side, running parallel. I had turned too soon! I had to make another 180° turn. This one turned out to be a 7-point turn because the road was so narrow. Once I got back to Deadening, I turned right and, you guessed it, drove right past Porter Lake Road.

This one wasn’t my fault. It was labeled ‘Tom Johns Road’ or ‘Johnson Road’ or something like that. So, another chance to practice the 180° turn on a narrow clay road. (I’m quite good, now!)

This was the last leg of the trip, and I soon arrived at Tom Johns Boat Landing, on Porter Lake. I was the only one there, and it was a beautiful day. Of course, by now it was 10:30 and starting to get hot. After a brief pit stop (yes, there was a port-a-potty) and some pictures, I headed down to the lake.

The other cachers had been correct – there was a spongy tract of earth that stretched between the mainland and the island on the right side of the boat ramp, so I didn’t even have to get my feet wet. There was also a lot of water plants and driftwood still around, so it was kind of eerie…like being underwater with no water. Does that make any sense? As I walked down the boat launch I came across a scary-looking water snake that was holding completely still. He was probably mad because I scared his insect lunch away. I avoided him cautiously, and headed to the dry lakebed. I found a boat anchor and a fishing lure, both of which were beyond salvaging. I squished and squashed my way to the island, and crashed through the outer brush.

There were no trails on the island, so some light bushwacking was required. I used my bare shins to beat down the thorns and other brush, and cleaned out the spider webs with my face. This method was quite effective, so I continued using it.
The story of Devil’s island goes something like this:

“Local legend describes Devil's Island as the lair of a mysterious beast said to inhabit the local swamps, lakes and river flood plains. Since the early 1800's, this creature has been blamed for the disappearances of livestock and several small children. There have been recent sightings of a mysterious blue light on the East side of the island, generally only visible around midnight in the fall. Additionally, there have been rumors of occult ceremonies held on the island during Halloween.”

Well, I didn’t see anything at 10:30 on a bright, sunny summer morning, but I did hear a crunching sound like light footsteps in the woods. I knew there was nobody else around, so it must have been an animal. It always sounded about 40 – 50 feet away, and the brush was too thick to see anything. When I tried to get closer the footsteps would stop for a while, then resume – until they disappeared altogether and I didn’t hear them anymore.

After this brief side excursion, I continued on with the cache hunt. I was able to locate it with little trouble. The cords were pretty accurate, and the camouflage was weak. I left a plastic lizard and a carbiner key ring, and took a compass. I signed the log, and camouflaged the cache better than I had found it with moss and palm fronds and other nature trash. Then I headed back through the brush, across the lakebed and to the car. The snake hadn’t moved, and I’m sure he was glad to see me go. I bid farewell to Devil’s Island, and headed home.

The view from the boat ramp.

Jul 21, 2006

Ruby In Paradise

Angela found this movie while surfing around online. It stars Ashley Judd, and it's called 'Ruby in Paradise'. It's about a girl who runs away from her crappy life in Tennessee and heads to Florida. It was filmed in Panama City Beach, so we decided to see if we could rent it from Blockbuster. I called around and found a location that had it (on videotape, of course.)

The movie was pretty much a stinker, but it had some great shots of Panama City Beach, ca 1993. Miracle Strip Park, the Panama City Beach Tower and the City Pier are all featured prominently in the film. The story is kind of weak and slow, but watching for landmarks made it fun.

There was also this part where Ruby's boss was hanging a Canadian flag in the window, and all these Canadian snowbirds were coming in and buying armloads of souvenirs during the winter.

I'm glad to say they represented Panama City Beach quite accurately!

Jul 17, 2006

Who Am I?

A lot of times when people meet me or see a picture of me, they say I remind them of some guy they know. So, I offer the below picture with a simple question.

Who am I?

Did you have a college class with me? Do I work with your friend? Did you see me in the dentist’s office? Do I live in your building? Was I the guy who was tailgating you this weekend? Do you pass me in the halls at work?

Maybe you’ve seen a picture of me in the paper…or in your high-school yearbook.

Do you know other people that look like me? Maybe you could ask me if I have family in some other state. Or maybe just “Where do I know you from?” or “You look just like this guy I know…”
Come on…who am I?
What about this guy? This is DJ Kenneth A, a guy I met on (I do have to admit that he looks a lot like me...creepy!)

Jul 16, 2006

Blast Off!

On Saturday, my wife and I went geocaching on the beach. We found a couple of caches at Frank Brown Park, which is a huge sports complex on Panama City Beach. They have a big open field that RC plane enthusiasts use for flying. I thought it would be the perfect place to launch Renegade, a two-stage model rocket I got last year at Christmas.

I’ve never really been into model rockets, which is strange, because it’s a great hobby for me. I like building things, and it’s got elements of danger and excitement. I mean, we’re talking about launching bits of balsa wood and paper tubes over a thousand feet into the air! Yeah, baby! Renegade is a two-stage rocket that I had to build. I had to cut the fins from sheets of wood, and paint/glue everything. I haven’t had a chance to launch it yet, because you need a big field and very little wind.

So yesterday, my wife and I went to the field to launch Renegade. When we got there, the wind was a bit breezier than I would have liked. I decided to test the currents with Bandito II, a small, green rocket that goes up to about 750 feet. The name isn’t a clever Estes marketing device, it is actually the second Bandito rocket I’ve owned. I lost the first one in my neighborhood whilst launching it from a local park near my house. It drifted away over the trees, and we never found it again.

Bandito I...we miss you good buddy!

Since that time, we’ve started cutting holes in the parachutes for faster recovery. We actually discovered this tactic by accident. At first, I never put any recovery wadding into the rockets and one time I was launching Snapshot and the engine burned a hole into the parachute making it come down faster, with no added damage. We were like, “Awesome!”

I put Bandito II on the launcher, and counted down: 3….2….1….blast-off! It shot out of sight. The sky was very bright, and there were some scattered clouds which made it difficult to see. (Note to self: put sunglasses with rocket stuff) However, when the parachute came out, it became visible. Now, the breeze was blowing to the northeast, and we were like 500 yards away from the nearest trees. We watched it come down…and sail out of sight into the woods. Dag-nabbit!

We decided to scrub the Renegade launch, and shot off some smaller rockets. We only had 3 A3-4T engines, and we used one on Bandito II, so we had to make some choices. I selected Swift 220 II, and we also launched Sting Ray. Sting Ray is a pre-fab rocket we had purchased that morning, but I had to construct the Swift 220 II just like I had to build Renegade--only on a much smaller scale. You may have noticed the “II” in the rocket’s name. This first Swift 220 was painted yellow, and was lost on a former mission. It’s too small for a parachute or a streamer so it employs the “tumble down” recovery method. We saw it blast off, we watched the smoke trail…but that was all she wrote. I bought another one, painted it fluorescent orange for greater visibility, and christened it Swift 220 II.

We launched it and Sting Ray and were able to recover both of them - a phenomenal achievement! (Honestly, we didn’t see them come down, we just traversed the park until we found them.) We decided not to launch any of the larger rockets, for fear of losing them. So, we packed up and headed toward the woods to attempt to recover Bandito II.

The plan was for Angela to stay in the car with her seat reclined and the AC on, and I was to head into the woods on the recovery mission. (Hmmmm….I wonder if she knew something I didn’t.) Anyhow, the brush was very tall, and I searched for an opening, but could not locate a way in. I estimated that the rocket came down about 40 or 50 feet into the woods, so I attempted to stomp the brush down and carve out a path. Okay, so the “brush” consisted of thorns, saw palms, scrub bushes, rotten wood and more thorns. It was up to chest level, and it was like snow in that as you stepped on it, your foot would punch a hole and go all the way down to the ground. It was very difficult going. I was getting scratched up, and the brush was not letting up. I thought it would get easier as I got into the woods, but if anything, the brush got higher! There were some small trees that I held on to for balance, and after about 15 – 20 feet I realized I was on a fool’s errand and it wasn’t worth the $6 I paid for Bandito II. So I decided to abort.

Hah. I thought going back would be easier because I had already cleared a path. No such luck. There was no path, only more brush. I couldn’t even see the car. The thorns were rapped around my leg, and as I started to retrace my steps, more brush gave way, and I started to lose my balance. There’s nothing to hold on to, and you can’t move your legs ‘cuz of all the danged brush you’re standing in. So I started to grab at stuff, but it all gave way and I went crashing down. Backwards. Now imagine you’re standing on one side of a log, and someone pushes you over it. You end up on your back, but your feet are up on the log. Now imagine trying to stand up, and you’ll see my dilemma. I briefly contemplated yelling for help (I was unaware that Angela had the radio blasting), but decided to make one last attempt first.

I grabbed at some old roots, hoping they’d hold, and gave a mighty pull. Once I got my center of gravity back underneath my knees, I stood up. Victory! Mission accomplished! I plowed my way back through the brush, emerging as a sweating, bleeding mess.

I had escaped the woods.

Sadly, I could not say the same for Bandito II.

Jun 28, 2006

I've only got 28 teeth left!

Last Friday I got the day off from work, but not for vacation or even a sick day. I was getting my wisdom teeth pulled.

That’s right, I joined the ranks of those unfortunate souls to have all four pulled in one sitting. My wife came in to the room with me, which was good, because she’s the one that got me the gas. If you ever get offered the gas, TAKE IT. It really takes the edge off. It didn’t make me happy, nonchalant or relaxed, and I was fully aware of what the doctor was doing, but it just kind of makes it easier to focus on something else, if that makes sense.

So the doctor says, “You feel nothing…you just hear cracking…OK?” (He’s not the best communicator.) Man, I was about to pass out, and not from the gas.

For anyone that is considering the procedure, but is unfamiliar with what it entails because you have a doctor like mine, I’ll describe it. First of all, DON’T LOOK AT THE WALL CHARTS. If you do, you will see that there are nerves that go up into your teeth. This will make you very nervous, because you start to realize what’s going to happen to those nerves. Now, on to the procedure:

They numb your mouth with some cotton swabs dipped in morphine or something, and then the doctor gives you some “locals”. (This is a nice way of saying ‘shots in the mouth’.) I got 6. This numbs you up, and this is where they ask you if you want the gas. As stated before, ALWAYS SAY YES TO THE GAS. Seriously, it’s the best $40 I’ve spent in a long time. After about 15-20 minutes, you shouldn’t be able to feel your bottom lip. You should, however, be able to feel your upper lip. This was not fully explained to me until the doctor noticed I was rigorously pinching my face all over. Then the doctor uses a special tool that’s like a cross between an ice pick and a screwdriver to pry your teeth around and loosen them up. That was the most painful part for me. After the teeth are loose, he uses a really shiny, sterile pair of pliers to jiggle the tooth around until it comes out.

This is how it’s supposed to go, anyway. The first three went fine, and each time another came out, it was a great relief because I was that much closer to being done. NOTE: I recommend using the “find-a-happy-place” method for coping. It worked well for me.

As I said, the first three went fine. The last tooth, however, was a real bugger.

It was chipped and stuff so the doctor couldn’t really get a good grip on it with the pliers. They kept slipping off and banging around in my mouth. Finally, he put me in a headlock (my wife can verify this, she was there) and had my head pressed up against his side. My happy place was fading fast. I was sucking the gas as deep as I could, and all I wanted was to be back in the waiting room reading Highlights and looking for the hidden objects. Then finally, after what seemed like an eternity of circular jerking, the thing came out.


Then, all that’s left is for the doctor to sew the holes up in your mouth. This is painless considering what you just went through. Another thing to remember: try not to look at the tray of tools, because you will probably see the extracted teeth. It was pretty mind-blowing for me, because the bottom of the tooth (the part in your gums) is larger than the part you normally see. This makes you think pretty hard about what just happened.

Then you get your prescriptions, pay your bill, and take it easy for the next few days. I highly recommend KFC mashed potatos and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. Mmm, mmm, good!

So now I have to go back and get 12 fillings (don’t worry, only 3 per sitting). I’ll let you know what that’s like after it happens.

Jun 21, 2006

4 Hours of Hugs and Trust-Falls

Hey everybody, I'm out here sailing on the seas of high finance. Well, for the first 30 minutes anyway. After that I have to attend a "team-building" session with our trainer and manager. I'm afraid it's going to be 4 hours of hugs and trust-falls. I'll let you know when I get back.

Update: Okay, so the training wasn't unbearable. No trust falls, no hugs. I do, however, now know the favorite colors and foods of 4 random co-workers!

We also got to watch this cartoon that had to be at least 30 years old. It was pretty know, those old 70s cartoons where the drawings are real simplified, the backgrouds are wacky and the people are colored the same color all over? I knew it was from the early 70s because the new employee at the factory was this hippie guy with long hair, a goatee and dark sunglasses. He was orange. The plot was pretty was about this bumbling manager (who was blue) that smoked cigars incessantly and was real short with everybody. They asked for his help on all kinds of things, and instead of explaining, he would just do the job himself. Finally, the day he spent in the commissary complaining about his crappy employees was the day that their production increased dramatically. The manager ended up getting all the glory and thought it was his efforts that made the difference. Classic!

Jun 20, 2006

Dude, I got a blog.

Dude, I got a blog...

I'm thinking about using this blog to write about my work (until I get called into HR) and my music, man. My wife and I create songs electronically using ACID 2.0, and then upload them to Other users then review the songs, and you can move up and down the charts. I used to think I was pretty good, until my wife got interested and started posting songs. She's blown me out of the water and got up to #25 in all genres! (The highest I've ever gotten was like, 47.) Of course, you can also make friends, trade techiques, listen and download other artists' songs, so it's a lot of fun.

(Note to you can send my check to my home address, just like usual.)

That's all for now, and if you haven't figured it out yet, I use these "( )" a lot. (J/K) (No, really, I do) (NOT!)