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!