The Birthday Weekend Post

Birthdays are always fun, but this year I feel especially spoiled. Thanks to everyone who called, texted or facebook’ed some well wishes; I really appreciate you thinking of me- it means a lot to hear from you. Being away from the family on my birthday felt odd last year, but having had a lovely visit just the week before worked out wonderfully. Sarah came down for my birthday weekend which was really great. We had a lot of fun for the short time she was here, and we managed to fit a lot in. She spoiled me rotten with some always excellent, Cheesecake Factory for my birthday meal, which was great. Still can’t convince myself to stray from the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake* however. Whether we where heading out to Cirque du Soleil, watching a movie or hanging out poolside we where always having fun. I really love it when I get to spend time with her, and look forward to our next trip already.

*Why be adventurous when you picked the perfect flavor the first time around?

The Mania-24 Post

Last night both Wrestlemania and I turned 24 years old. The show was in Orlando this year at the Citrus Bowl and I have been stoked to go for a long time. Bruce and I headed downtown into the absolute mob-scene that surrounded the stadium. Through insiders scalping comp tickets and parking attendants making a little money on the side we managed to get really good parking close to the stadium and some amazing floor seats. The show was awesome, and the place was slammed. The Wrestlemania attendance record was broken, with something in the 74,000 range which was awesome. Seeing Flair's last match was brilliant and the pop the Undertaker got when he became champ was palpable. The whole thing was an awesome Blockbuster from bell to pin, though if it where my world I’d have had the matches go in the favor of some of my preferred wrestlers. I didn’t quite get the whole Mayweather v. Big Show angle, but whatever. Seeing Snoop Dog, Kim Kardashian and John Legend was pretty cool. Actually the night before Sarah and I had seen Jeff Jarret and Hornswoggle wandering about Downtown Disney which really got me amped up for the show. I had an absolute blast, thanks a million Bruce.


The (la) Nouba Post

Last night Sarah and I went to see La Nouba at Cirque du Soleil. I had heard great things about the show and we had both been looking forward to seeing it for a long time. After the final bow I have to say that the experience far exceeded my expectations in every way. I was blown away by the amazing feats and fantastic skills on display, and have never found myself involuntarily muttering “holy shit” and ‘wow’ more than I did last night. Some of the performers have superhuman abilities and simply amazing coordination and discipline. Right about the time I saw a man unicycle across a tightrope with a woman balanced on his head on one leg like a ballerina I knew that we where in for an amazing experience. The characters where excellently mimed and were brimming with charisma. The acrobatics and stunts where phenomenal, and the art direction and theme was eerily unique. The show has it all, and I challenge anyone to walk away unimpressed. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone by the segment with the four little girls playing with the juggle-sticks simply blew my mind. Much of what I saw is simply beyond comprehension and any flattery I could throw at it wouldn’t do it justice. I urge anyone who hasn’t checked out the show to do so., you won’t be disappointed. I promise.


The Simian Filter Post

And now for something completely different. When checking back over my camera I found this little gem that I figured would be worth a random posting. It’s a clip from a recent Xbox Live video chat with Treebeer’d in which the awkward camera filters where applied. Somehow the green effect turns him into an old Asian-sensei looking monkey. Who knew?

The SeaWorld Visit Post

Yesterday we headed off to SeaWorld for the day, as it was one of the parks we haven’t been to as a family in ten years or so. I am always impressed with the park, having only been twice before myself, it’s all new to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The shows are really impressive, especially the dolphin and whale one. We caught pretty much everything show-wise, saving Shamu till after dark, then watched the fireworks. We didn’t get a chance to hit the Journey to Atlantis water-ride primarily due to the long wait in the rain, and the fact that the people coming off the thing where dripping wet in the already overcast weather. The Kraken however has a nice short line and was a lot of fun. Jake rode it 5 times or so while Mum, Dad and I hit the Anheuser-Busch tasting demonstration, and I joined up with him afterwards. We had a really good guide during the tasting that really knew her stuff, which made it much more educational and entertaining than the last time I did it. Got 5 new caps for the collection too, so it was a productive round of drinking really. We had a table booked at the Sharks restaurant which was fantastic. The restaurant is much like the one at Epcot’s Journey to the Sea, but focused on sharks. The long wall of the dining room is a massive shark tank, filled with all kinds of reef and tiger sharks, and a few others. We had a delicious meal while staring at all the beasts lumbering past, even going as far as to name a few. The park is running a great ‘buy one day-come back all year’ ticket deal, so I look forward to heading back at some point this year to catch a show or get a bite.

Here's a pretty cool video of the underwater viewing tank with the dolphins. They often interact with people watching down below as well as those who are feeding and petting them on the surface. It was raining so we picked the underground option.

The Murder Mystery Post

On Friday Mum, Dad, Jake and I headed to the Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show on I-Drive. It’s one of the Florida themed dinner shows that we had never done before as a family, primarily because we where of the age to favor knights jousting and pirates swinging on ropes while we ate rather than murder mysteries. The whole show was a lot of fun and did an excellent job of getting the audience in on the act, while at the same time being enjoyable. I find that lot of the audience participation in most tourist attractions comes off as awkwardly forced in many cases, but Sleuths did a great job of keeping things fun and fresh. The food was actually pretty good too which is rather uncommon at these sort of things. The mystery we had to solver involved a largely disliked rich-type being crushed by an elephant outside in the parking lot. There are four main suspects, all with reasonable motive, that the crowd has to home in on with questions and astute observations. The character actors where clearly having a lot of fun with it, and their performances where hilariously fun, and not over cooked to the point of cheese ball. We ended up pegging the right crook and won some nifty detective badges to prove our sleuthing prowess. Wandered down to Bahama Breeze for a nice drink with Dad afterwards.

The Wantula Retrun Post

This week the Wantulas are taking an unexpected trip down to Disney World for spring break, and Andrew wanted to meet up with ‘Mr. G’ at Disney Quest, like we did last year. Its funny to see how much he and Gabby have both grown so much since I’ve been away, but it makes me feel like an hold fart to make those sort of comments, so I’ll stop right there. Andrew and I rode Cyber-Space Mountain* a fair few times, like we did last time, but Andrew’s coaster tolerance has since improved apparently because our customer coaster was focused around going upside-down as much as possible and as fast as the simulator would let us go. We hit the Buzz Lightyear bumper cars and played a little Mario Kart in the arcade area as well. I steered clear of the helmet –based VR games with the motion sickness from last year still in the back of my mind. Great to see everyone again- we had a blast.

*A pretty cool attraction where you deign your own virtual coaster on a terminal then ride your creation in a 360-degree rotating simulator.

The Gator Hunt'n Post

Last week we all headed out to Boggy Creek down in Kissimmee after I was done at the office to go on their gator hunt. We heard that its best to do the night show because that’s when they all come out to feed. We, along with a few other families, hoped aboard some swamp airboats and zoomed off over the lake at Southport Park. It was a lot of fun to hit the high speeds and bound over the very tranquil waters. The night was perfect and at a few points our guide stopped the fan (which was loud as all hell for the record) and we just drifted along the water in the moonlight. Very peaceful. The boat was equipped with a large searchlight, which could pick out the gators from far away, reflecting as little red orbs in their eyes when they came up to the surface. We saw a fair few alligators, the largest was about 6 feet I’d say, but its hard to tell when they dive under the murky water and/or swim amongst the swamp grass. The ride home was filled with all kinds of hilarious ‘hillbilly stuff’ like calendars of ‘Pa and the kin’ and wooden mallets that had attitude adjuster scrawled along the side. We spend the ride home laughing at each others horrible twangy accent impressions. Fun night.

The Mini-Golf Fever Post

Mum, Dad and Jake have been in town since last weekend and have taken it upon themselves to play every put-put course along I-Drive. Every day I call to check in and find out what they are up to and more often than not the answer is “We just finished playing 2 rounds at Pirates Cove”. I’m not knocking it; I love some mini-golf. But it’s gotta take a lot of determination to be able to play that much over a short period of time. The few times I joined them everyone but me sank some very impressive hole-in-one shots, so I suppose the practice is making very close to perfect.


The O'Post

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I have to say that I was impressed with everyone today. Not once did I hear the usual “I’m ¼ Irish on my mother’s-side” or “I half Irish, half German, half Scottish”, which is a first for me. Props to everyone who has decided it’s not cool to pretend/justify your Irish-ness (or lack there of), lets never resort to that again. Tom, Bruce and I headed out to the Ale House for their modified Irish menu. I settled on the Stew in a bread bowl, which ended up tasting like cat food. Good thing I had a side of Zingers with it or I would have been very upset.

The Bay Hill Post

Yesterday was the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, at Bay Hill. The annual golf tournament is held in the Bay Hill area which is right on the outskirts of Orlando, and where Dick and Sharon Simmon’s have a house. Every year they throw a pig party at their house, which is perfectly sat right on the 18th hole. Bruce and I went by yesterday and had a blast hanging out at the Simmon’s (the palace was packed), wandering the course and visiting a few other parties along the way. The house has a beautiful 2nd story balcony that looks right over the final hole, which is where I watched Tiger’s big winning put-which was pretty awesome. *

I got to meet Henry’s brother aswell as hangout with Mark, Henry, George, Victor and a few other people from the office. Lost a few rounds of pool to Mark’s son Caleb, and chowed down on some delicious pulled pork.I was able to borrow a lanyard pass and get into the pavilion areas down by clubhouse which was very cool and provided a nice break from the sun. Afterwards we met up with Mum, Dad and Jake at the Tommy Bahamas restaurant at Pointe Orlando for a late dinner, which was lovely. Looking forward to spending the week with them in town. With the drinking and the heat teaming up on me I was pretty dehydrated, which mean for a wonderful headache this morning. Really glad that I got to go, and very appreciative to everyone involved, I had a blast. Thank you.

* I won’t pretend to know anything about golf, aside from the few pointers Dick was giving me yesterday, and what Papa has shown me in the years past; but I was able to appreciate the great put and fantastic finish from the tournament. Very cool to get to say I was there in person.

The Nostalgic Studio Post

Sam and I ended up not heading to Aquatica last week primarily due to the thunderstorms on the day we where shooting for. Still keen on doing a park, we headed to MGM…er Disney Hollywood Studios instead. Samantha hadn’t been to the park in a long time and had many fond memories of it, so it was the perfect substitute for a water park considering the weather. We had a great time and hit pretty much everything in there, including some older attractions I hadn’t been on since my initial Disney trip 15 years ago (aka The Voyage of the Little Mermaid). The intermittent rain meant a few things where clipped due to safety issues, namely the Indiana Jones stunt show, which I was a little sad about, but all in all it was a lot of fun (if not a bit soggy at times). Took Sam to the airport on Saturday. Shame to see her go, we had a good time. I look forward to her visiting again.


The Day Off Post

I’m taking today off from work, which marks the first time I’ve successfully used a vacation day*. It’s a double header really because I’m using today as a relaxation day after week of feeling rather ‘bleh’ with a sort through and cough, as well as a ‘spend-time-with-your-sibling-day’ to hang out with Samantha before she heads home this weekend. Last night Sam, Jason and I went out to Cowboy’s for Jodi’s birthday, then headed downtown to meet up with Buck and Laura at Firestone. It was a good night for me because I’d never been to either place and have been itching to check out Firestone for a while now. Cowboys was not my usual party spot (a lot more cowboy hats and line dancing than I’m accustomed to) but the place was huge and packed. I reckon I’ll head out that way again sometime. No, I don’t want to line dance.

Today we are thinking of heading out to the new SeaWorld park Aquatica. After a nice lay-in of course. I’m feeling a lot better, which I’m pleased about. I was worried I might have caught what Tom had last week, which left him bedridden for a good few days. Guess either I only got something mild, or my immune system is a bulldozer. I’m inclined to think the latter of course.

*I’ve filed for days off before but just gone without pay.


The Celica Vandalism Post

So I was burgled last night. The side panels off of the Celica where knicked right in my apartment parking lot. This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me, and I have been an unpleasant cocktail of irate, depressed and irritated pretty much all day. I have filled a police report and had the damage assessed ($1200) and am moving forward with an insurance claim. The thing that really pisses me off is that this will cost me a minimum of 500 bucks if I go through insurance, and there is no guarantee that the thief/thieves won’t just strike again*. With this being a gated community my finger is pointing at someone one the inside, or maybe a friend of a neighbor, but of course that’s just irritated speculation on my part. I suppose I was owed some vandalism after living in my old apartment and escaping unscathed, but I’m still very upset about the whole ordeal. I hope they find the guy/s and let me kick off their side panels in retaliation, but I doubt that is going to happen.

*I am making security adjustments so that this doesn’t happen, but if you are reading this thief/thieves then consider your cheap ass/es warned.

* P.S. eat a fat one.

The Other Boleyn Post

Samantha is visiting me this week, and has just finished reading her airport-book-purchase The Other Boleyn Girl. I told her if she managed to finish the book I’d take her to go see the movie. Not really my cup of tea, but I’m just a good big brother like that.

Being that I tend to not read, and have very fleeting memories of world history (sorry Mr. Deegan) I have very little knowledge about the rein of Henry the VIII besides that he had a fondness of lopping of heads and seemingly didn’t have the ability to father a son.* That being said I was able to enjoy The Other Boleyn Girl, largely I believe to my indifference as far as its historical accuracy or ability to follow the popular book’s plotline. It’s hard for me to review these sort of films because I’m very much out of my element if there isn’t a hot-chick or planet that needs saving from some evildoer, but the film was well made, filled with pretty believable acting performances, and the costuming efforts where phenomenal. I found it very easy to follow and not sleep through as well, which was a nice bonus. So as far as I can tell it was a really good movie.

I did find that there where far too many loose ends left open in the film though; Who ends up watching all these damn babies? Because none of the female leads lift a finger towards their own care, let alone the babies they keep popping out. There is also the matter of the missing, estranged husbands, who seem to be forgotten as quickly as their relevance to the plot subsides. Apparently these are wound up in the book, according to Sam, but where notably absent plot points in the film I found.

I liked the corruption theme and watching the simple country folk become twisted by power and pride once the royal whiff caught their noses. Both Portman and Johansen showed evolution of both sisters characters remarkably well. Eric Bana’s Henry was too inconsistent to really get a feel for, so it was hard to see why the Boleyn’s where kicking up such a fuss to be honest. It seems that all the wrong-doing came from the girls themselves more than the king, which I found a little odd. In fact for an adulterous tyrant I found they made Henry entirely too likable (until he rapes that girl. That wasn’t very likable at all).

Anyway, when push comes to shove I found the movie to be entertaining and well composed, if not a little loose with minor details and a tad spotty when it comes to Henry’s relationships with the rest of the characters. Plus the incest thing has me cringing a little more than I’d like.

*I also knew he split from the Catholic church so he could divorce a wife under his own church, but my historical prowess is not the purpose of this post.


The Bye Bye GuTAIR Post

So my little brother dumped his girlfriend the other day. Normally this wouldn’t qualify a blog news nor any of my business at all, for I am not one to care much about pre-pubescent angst. However, the girl recently posted an absolutely hilarious YouTube video with her breaking a guitar given to her as a gift by my brother. The video reeks of 14 year-old douchbaggery and is even set to Kelly Clarkson and filled with spelling mistakes. Classic. It’s a must see for anyone who enjoys a good laugh and poetic preambles. I especially enjoy the puddles. They are like sooo deep man and are like my BFF OMG. Oh High School Musical 2 is on. Gotta go. TTYL.

The Bank Job Post

The Bank Job follows a heavily crime-oriented plot which primarily centers around Jason Statham’s character pulling together a ragtag band of thieves who have fallen on hard times, in order to pull of a heist that should net them enough cash to get them out of said hard times. The plot is thickened when it turns out the safety deposit boxes they are stealing from belong to half the seedy crime lords in Soho. One of those crime lords happens to be Michael X- a Black Panther type who likes to cause a ruckus and be the Brit version of Malcolm. His inclusion, while plot related- does seem tacked on, and could have been erased entirely with little effort on the part of the writers. I guess they really fell in love with the ‘based on a true story’-part of their title.

Due to the nature of heist films I was pretty much guaranteed to love this film from the get go. I sat down pretty much willing to give this film a perfect 10, and was just waiting for things to happen that would knock that score down*. The Bank Job unfortunately is more about the aftermath of the heist than it was the actual planning and undertaking. And while the ending did have a ‘all; falls into place’-feel that I’ve come to expect from the genre, there where no really clever moments that had you thinking that these guys really know what they re doing. I’m a big fan of the twist-on-twist ending that reveals that one of the guys was bad all along but the main guy totally knew it and took a counter measure that makes him or her look really clever… ore something like that. Whatever it is I am trying to get at this film does have it. And that’s a minus.

I also felt that while the time setting and execution of the heist was a refreshing change from the standard fair, the location (London) waste really taken advantage of as much as it could have been. The whole thing could have easily been set in Knob-end, Kansas and I would have never known. (Though it would have made the line at the end when some guy says “She’s a scallywag” a little odd.)

That said the characters where pretty good and operated as a believable crime-team would do. Some characters where smart, others funny or very skilled- it’s a refreshing change from the modern Ocean’s 11 approach where every character is the funniest, cleverest and most skilled bank robber ever working with a team of other crooks. The whole film was believably set in the 1970 right down to the cars driven and tool used to take on the task of robbing the bank. I love the ‘walkie-talkie bandits vs. the ham radio’ portion of the film as it added a level of grit and realism where a laser-activated-tracking-scanner with built-in-thermal-detector would have been the approach in today’s heists.

All in all a good film that was just lacking a bit too much in the cleverness and action departments. The Michael X character really seemed to get too much unnecessary screen time, but the strong character development and general nature of the film surpass that enough to net it a positive reaction from me.

*When I realized that this wasn’t a flashback scene and Jason was going to keep those sideburns through the whole movies was the first of these offenses.


The Civic Duty Post

As I often lament; I can’t vote. Not that I really do a very good job of keeping up with anything political, or that I feel that my opinions are valid enough to really have any right to make any political statements. It doesn’t usually bother me to be honest. Though it is the ONE thing I can’t do in this country that all you with your fancy-shamnsy citizenship can, and the appeal of wanting something I cant have stings a little. I have to say though voting impotency is a nice card to pull as a back up after I say something politically boneheaded; “Well I cant vote anyways, so you win” always ends the awkwardness pretty quickly after I mix up left and right-wing or say liberal when I mean conservative. (Don’t even pretend that stuff isn’t confusing at times!).

Anyway this election I have been following the primaries relatively closely and actually feel like I have a vested interest in seeing this one though more than elections past. While I lean both ways as far as being a donkey or an elephant* on different issues (I want my stemcells researched whilst keeping my money to myself thank you very much) I find the war in Iraq being my main issue of interest this time around. I wont even present to have a complete understanding on what’s going on there at this point, but all I know is I have a little brother with sand blowing in his face and the potential to bring him home sooner than originally anticipated. After looking at who’s left in the scrum I have to say I would like to see Barac come out on top. Being that I can’t vote for the guy I decided to make a donation to his campaign instead. While this is pennies to the overall cost of these political machines I feel that I am doing my part in voicing my opinion, possibly even more directly than a ballot check does. In all honesty the money I send their way is probably just going to be enough to employ the person who ends up sending me junk mail all the way up to election day… but whatever. I did my civic duty. Or at least I’m going to tell people I did. Now I need to find one of those ‘I voted’ stickers…

*If I ran the country these lame animal icons would have to go. They would promptly be replaced with an acid-breathing robot dragon and a 50-ft gorilla with a cannon for a head.