23 April 2008

Picnic On A Budget

I am of the mindset that we are already in a recession. I think it's proven by the fact that people who couldn't define "the r word" six months ago now have a very clear understanding. No, we don't have riots of over food prices just yet, but people are making tough decisions about food and gas, and even casinos are losing revenue. Those things don't just start and stop overnight. Furthermore, my company picnic this year was a potluck.

I think most businesses put on both a picnic and a holiday party as a sign of employee appreciation. This was my third picnic with this company and for the first time, it wasn't catered. The staple barbecue foods were provided, and cooked by members of management. But I (as someone who doesn't eat beef or pork) had to bring my own meat. I did. And I brought enough to share.

I thought the picnic was nice. I had a good time and got to talk to people I normally wouldn't. I didn't mind bringing food, because I understood the situation. In tough economic times, it's difficult to set money aside for fun. If bringing a box full of wings means we can keep out stellar holiday party, then so be it. But I know a lot of people had gotten used to the catering, and they didn't come out at all. And that just left more wings for me.

21 April 2008

A Pair. A Trio. Now Solo.

Lucy moved out in the middle of April. You might recall I wrote about her moving here in October of 2006. A year and a half later, I can tell you that Lucy decided Las Vegas was not for her. She didn't like the crime, the dirt, the poor customer service, the expensive bars, or being home alone. She drove back up to North Dakota and Jesse went with her. Yes. That means I'm alone again.

I honestly can't say when Jesse's coming back to Las Vegas. He left April 17th. He is adamant about going to his cousin's graduation on May 17th, and he can't afford to fly back and forth.

By May 18th, Jesse will have spent more time away from me in 2008 than with me. It's not the same as a military deployment or series of business trips. My boyfriend is choosing to leave me for weeks at a time. I'm not pleased. I'm actually really sad and confused about it. I've asked him to come home early but this graduation is the world to him - even though it was out of the question when I brought it up in November. There's also no guarantee he'll come back the day, weekend, week after it's over.

I feel like I'm being punished, but I know I didn't do anything wrong. It's crappy. Fortunately for you, it's my pity party. I encourage you not to join.

20 April 2008

Every six months, I get to check in with two of my friends from college, Jason & Nora. He works for ESPN, following the NHRA. The hot rods come here every six months and so do they. We've been meeting up for drinks and more drinks bi-annually since 2005. I think that makes it a tradition. But I also think we're getting on in years.

This time around we went Blush at Wynn Las Vegas for an hosted bar. We sat and caught up -- like honest to goodness adults. And that was it. Two hours later, I was off to Lucy's party at Stoney's. The last time Jay & Nora came, her sister was in a booty shaking contest, and Nora and I ended up walking out of gentleman's club sometime after four in the morning. I guess we've grown in the last six months.

19 April 2008

Family Vacation 2008 - Wrap

It may feel like I was in Florida for weeks, but I was really only there for three days. We spent day two hanging out at Universal Studios. The best part about me having an eight year old brother is that we watch the same shows. It means we watched more Ben 10 in the hotel room than Law & Order. My dad loves Law & Order. If there's an all day marathon, he'll watch all day. Ty and I prefer cartoons. And we saw some come to life at Universal Studios.

We ran into Chuckie from Rugrats right away, and just in time. It had to be 85 degrees and humid that day and he went inside right after us. If I had been in a giant costume, surrounded by screaming kids, I would have been less than pleasant. We also saw Jimmy Neutron exploring a street with Dora. I don't think there was anything romantic about it though. He's all science and even though she's bilingual, I don't think she's smart enough.

There were fewer rides and more attractions. We took the Jimmy Neutron Nicktoon Blast (I beat all the kids at the Jimmy Neutron / Spongebob trivia), and sat through the Shrek 4D story. I also found out that there is an attraction based on Twister, the movie. Not only does it exist, but it's intense. Ty was against it, and bored by the Bill Paxton / Jodie Foster vignettes during the wait. But after the flying cows, fire, wind and rain, he was a fan. Although he still doesn't think tornadoes are real. We'll have to work on that.

We rode an indoor roller coaster based on The Mummy, survived a Jaws shark attack, and shot aliens after going through the Men In Black training. And then we arrived at the best kids' attraction I've ever seen: The Curious George Goes To Town Interactive Playground.

It was like stepping into a cartoon, but with a lot of water. Everything was colorful, and leaking. The highlight were the giant buckets of water at the top of the firehouses. They would fill while the kids played. And once they reached their limit, a bell would sound and they would dump. Every time the kids heard a bell (or even the hint of a bell) they would line up, look at the sky and wait for the downpour. I recorded it, sideways. So if you just tilt your head to the right:

I think that happened on either side every five minutes. And there was an adoring crowd every five minutes. Ty ran amok, and my dad and I just watched. My dad rang him out as much as he could, but the sun was setting and it was time to go anyway.

We didn't do anything the following day, which is how I like my vacations. The day after that, I flew back to Las Vegas for all the adventures waiting there.

18 April 2008

Family Vacation 2008 - Jurassic Park & Toon Lagoon

Jurassic Park

Fifteen years ago, (I can't believe I can write about 15 years ago) my family (Angie included) went to the movies to see Jurassic Park. It's the first time I remember being really engrossed in what was happening on the screen. I mean even by then I had watched Dirty Dancing dozens of times, but I didn't know what was really going on for years. In 1993, I watched kids run from dinosaurs and I won't say it changed me, but it definitely had an affect on me. Fifteen years after that, I was there, in Jurassic Park. Courtesy of Universal Studios of course.

There are only four or five attractions in the Jurassic Park area. One was a Pterodactyl adventure where one needed to be accompanied by a child. There was only one child among us, so we skipped it, rather than make my dad wait for us. The highlight there was the Jurassic Park River Adventure, which was set up in an area from which dinosaurs had escaped. Other than that, it was just cool to be there.

Toon Lagoon

The next stop on the Islands of Adventure was Toon Lagoon. If you know me, (or if you've read my myspace profile) you know that I love cartoons. I'm watching one as I write tonight. And I'll have another on as I go to bed. Toon Lagoon didn't have any current cartoons - and while I was never a big fan of Dudley Do Right or Popeye - their rides were fun.

Dudley Do Right was a giant flume ride with a fantastic splash at the end. We didn't go on it because my dad didn't want to get wet. Instead, I proposed Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges.
The description mentioned setting sail, a raft, and churning rapids. My dad said sure and Ty said no. He is also not a fan of Popeye. Too bad for him he's also 8, and therefore easily overruled.

Yes. I knew we were going to get soaked. I've been on similar rides before. On top of that, there was a spot in the middle to leave anything you wanted to keep dry. The seats were all wet and the dads and sons in the raft with us had done it several times - and were soaked. But not my dad. He acted like his phone would be fine in his pocket, and that he was too cool to get wet. The first time the water hit him, he squealed. It was most unmanly. Ty and I began teasing him immediately.

After that, we squished our way back to the car. It was close to closing time and we were too wet to get on anything else anyway. It was Fantastic.

16 April 2008

Family Vacation 2008 - The Lost Continent

We spent two days at the two parks, and there was nothing that tickled me more than Seuss' Landing. I have to admit we spent too much time there before arriving on The Lost Continent. There were fewer rides here, and I didn't think there was a clear theme. There was a Sinbad stunt show, an intermingling dinosaur - inspired roller coasters, and a Poseidon adventure. It was called Poseidon's Fury, and it caught our attention.

It wasn't as much a "ride," as a fantasy - adventure. It was set in a ruined castle. And after walking through dark and winding tunnels, we ended up as part of a tour group. The leader was an assistant, who has lost "the professor," and who accidentally woke up an ancient spirit. It got so intense, at one point Ty said: "Dad, I don't think we should have come in here." Pictures weren't allowed, so I lifted this one from the web site.

14 April 2008

Family Vacation 2008 - Seuss Landing

One thing you should know about me is that I really am easily amused. Bright colors, things that are really little, things that are cute can all hold my attention. And that's precisely why I had so much fun on the Island of Adventure, which is the sister park to Universal Studios.

We didn't go to the park right away once I got there. We were staying at an Extended Stay America (which I hereby recommend) and we needed some groceries. We stopped at a Target for a few things (but if you've ever stopped into a Target you know how long that can take) and didn't go too the park until after 2. Once we got there, my dad would not let me buy a ticket.

He and Ty had five day passes. My dad bought them over the phone before he even got to Florida and they were either $86 or $65. Or it was $86 for an adult and $65 for a child. Either way, at the ticket window the price was significantly higher. A two day pass was $129 and my dad balked. So I called the number he called and got a 5 day pass for $86. But the woman told me it would be two hours before I could pick up my ticket. You try telling a seven year old at the gates of an amusement park that he has to wait to go inside. I tried to explain the economy and the value of a dollar and the savings and how unfair it was to charge different prices. Ty was not amused.

We didn't sit out there for two hours. I was able to get my ticket is about 20 minutes. It might have even been ready right away. Take that Universal Studios. I beat your corrupt system.

The admission gets you into both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Our first stop was the Island of Adventure, namely Seuss Landing, and all things affiliated with Dr. Seuss.

It might be easy (especially if you're my dad) to scoff at the fact that my very first stop on my cross-country vacation was The Cat In The Hat. Scoff all you like, scoffers. It was fantastic. The best part about places built for children is that they don't hold back on the bright or on the silly. Pictures from the books came to life. The staff wore costumes and spoke in rhymes -- it really was merriment at its best.

I fully admit this was my favorite themed area on both properties. But we didn't stay there long. We had a lot of park to cover.

10 April 2008

Family Vacation 2008

I went to Florida last week for a modern family vacation. We used to always take family trips the week after Easter. My parents didn't mind taking us out of school to avoid the crowds. It worked then and it worked now. However a lot has changed over the years. Taking a family vacation is not as easy as I remember.

I remember getting new clothes, packing them up for the trip, waking up early, taking a smooth ride, and stopping every now and then to eat delicious, not at all nutritious, home cooked food.

In actuality, I had to work almost right up until my flight. I needed to save my paid vacation days. On Tuesday, I worked, went to the gym, went to Muay Thai, showered, packed, cleaned, and went to the airport. I was so exhausted by the time I got to my seat, I don't even remember taking off.

I had to change flights in Houston around 5:30am Central. I had a 90 minute layover and between naps, I waited for the sun to rise, so I could take a picture. It never showed. We boarded and again I slept from take off to touchdown.

Florida was hot and humid. I'm guessing the humidity was actually quite low, because I barely noticed it. And my tolerance of moisture has been greatly diminished. Florida was also green. There were trees and grass in every direction. There were clouds and a refreshing wind. If I sound like I was desperate to be on the East Coast, it's because I apparently was.

I have two brothers, one actually is from another mother. His name is Ty'yier and he's turning 8 this month. My dad always takes him on a trip for his birthday. This year they went to Universal Studios (which they have frequented in years past) and I went to Florida to meet them. I haven't seen Ty in years. He was born while I was in college, and right after graduation, I moved to Fargo. He came to Fargo once (first words there were "Danie I'm cold.") and I saw him occasionally when I visited my dad. But our relationship is lacking. We enjoy each other, we just don't spend as much time together as we should.

My dad and Ty picked me up at the airport. My dad took my bigger bag from me, and Ty offered to take it from him. Yes it was too big for him, but he wanted to carry it. So he carried it. I told him to tell me if he needed help. Five seconds later, he needed help. I took the bag from him, and my dad went to take it from me. Ty said "No dad, let her carry her own bag." Maybe chivalry comes at age 9. Anyway we were already at the car.

08 April 2008

The Latest, The Rants

I'm back from Florida and I want to tell you all about it. But I haven't uploaded the pictures yet. In fact, I haven't even cleared a space for myself on the desk yet. Apparently I'm a very busy bee. I just wanted you to know I haven't abandoned you. And I wanted to reward you for checking back here every now and then to see what I'm doing. So here are the highlights:
  • A year and a half after she came to stay for a few months, Lucy is finally moving out. She's heading back to North Dakota next week. Jesse is driving back with her, so I'll be really alone for a little while. But that gives me dibs on redecorating the room all by myself.
  • Work is going, There's nothing new, good, bad, or indifferent to report. Not that I'd be allowed to report it anyway. Our company picnic is coming up in two weeks. Jesse and Lucy will miss it. It'll be my first company picnic without Lucy. She's been along for the last two years. You might recall, before she officially moved in, Lucy would visit for 10 - 14 days at a time.
  • I've decided to start writing a book. I'm not sure what it'll be about though. I'm going to start this weekend, and probably make it a weekend task for a while. 
  • I've been working out piously during the week. I feel good, and have decided to start running this weekend. I realized (just yesterday) I've lost a lot of muscle in my legs. Running is supposedly good for that.
  • I'm not sleeping as much as I should. It's a good day if I get to bed before 10, and a great day if I sleep through the night. I work at 6:30am, so I start the wake up process around 5:30. But somehow I have been able to cut my caffeine. Lattes are a rarity and I dropped from two teas bags a day to one. I read that too much black tea can cause disturbed sleep. I drink tea. I have disturbed sleep. Go figure. 
That's about all I can think to tell you. I'm annoyed by the Absolut America controversy. I don't see the reason in getting upset over an ad showing Mexico retaking part of America. It's an ad. There's no reason for angry letters and apologies. I'm over it.
I'm also over protests of the Olympic Torch. I love the Olympics. I enjoy the games, the athletes, the competition, the national solidarity of it all. I didn't approve of giving the bid to China, but it's done. No amount of stunts asking for a Free Tibet is going to change that. China is not changing its policies. It doesn't have to change its policies. It has to host Olympians. That's it. The International Olympic Committee will meet this week to determine if the torch tour should be canceled. Way to go beatniks.

03 April 2008

I had forgotten what it

I had forgotten what it was like to be in a place with clouds, shade, and water. And water rides. It's fantastic!

02 April 2008

Touchdown in Orlando. I feel

Touchdown in Orlando. I feel moisture in the air. I see clouds in the sky. Also a lot of dirty things.

Hold The Line Please. I'm

Hold The Line Please. I'm on my way to Orlando for my brother's birthday. No Internet until Saturday. Currently tired in TX.