Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting Fit for the Trip (Update #1)

Well, after sticking with the workout that I described in my last post on this subject, I finally got to the point where I was just sitting on a plateau because I couldn't keep pushing my body over the line due to concerns of crushing myself under falling weights (no spotter).

I finally broke down and signed up again with a Personal Trainer.  My wife has been using one since January and has made remarkable improvements.

Well, now I have a new dietary menu that I'm being asked to try and stick to

Meal #1

  • 1.5 cups of high fibre cereal
  • 2 cups of skim/1% milk
  • 1 protein shake
  • 1 serving of fruit or glass of fruit juice
  • 1 serving of flax seed oil
  • 2 amino acid tablets

Meal #2

  • Meal Replacement Shake

Meal #3

  • 1.5 cubs of whole wheat pasta (pre-cooked weight)
  • 6 oz of lean meat (post cooked weight)
  • 1 cup of green vegetables
  • Low fat cheese (optional)
  • 1 serving of flax seed oil
  • 2 amino acid tablets

Meal #4

  • Meal Replacement Shake

Meal #5

  • Same as Meal #3

Meal #6 (if hungry)

  • Protein Shake (optional)

This is a very doable diet, but it's hard for me to stick to because I'm lazy and it involves my cooking the meat.  If I can get my butt into gear, I'll precook a weeks worth of meat.

On top of the diet, I'm being asked to do 20 minutes of jogging 3 times a week.  I know realize how much I'm out of shape.  I have a hard time keeping myself moving for 20 minutes.

The embarrassing part was my first workout with the trainer.  I have a hard time pacing myself and go all out.  Well 30 minutes into the workout the room started to get a bit foggy and I couldn't catch my breathe.  I went to stand up and.....

Lights out!

I felt as guilty as I was embarrassed so about an hour later, I was on my treadmill doing cardio to make up for not doing my full hour of weight training.

Well it's been a few days now and I can say that I AM HUNGRY all the time.  I was never much for eating because it got in the way of things like work.  So I typically ate only dinner.  Now that I'm eating 3 times a day, I feel like my body is just craving food.

To me, fitness is important but hard to maintain.  But when it comes to Disney, I find that I enjoy the parks so much better when I'm not bent over with my hands on my knees sucking wind just to breathe

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Can you feel the love tonight.....

Yes, I can be a grump at times, but as I was sitting here doing some "real" work, my wife put on her Disney Playlist on the iPod and was blasting it through our Apple iPod Speakers.

Then came the song that I titled this blog after....

There's a calm surrender to the rush of day
When the heat of the rolling world can be turned away
An enchanted moment, and it sees me through
It's enough for this restless warrior just to be with you

You need to realize that I do not normally listen to soundtracks, but for some reason I make an exception for soundtracks related to Disney Movies.  I wore out the soundtrack for the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  My wife loved Disney movie soundtracks so much that she insisted that I make a playlist for it so she could easily listen to them.

Yes, this song is deemed cheesy by some, as well as, many of the Tim Rice/Elton John collaborations but this song holds a special place in my heart.

I had fallen in love with this song and the entire Lion King soundtrack way before I ever saw the Lion King movie. 

This song was, by far, my favorite and I consider highly instrumental in pulling me out of my straight-men-don't-like-Disney phase.

Who would've though that a gay Grammy winner would be responsible for making me comfortable enough with my manhood to proclaim from the rooftops that a Disney life is the life for me and anything else is just grumptastic!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Warning: Snow Globes can be potentially dangerous to your trip

Cinderella SnowglobeMy wife just informed me that my sister-in-law and her son, my nephew, just got back from a fabulous trip to Disneyland.  Unfortunately, the trip home was a bit dramatic.

My nephew apparently had fireworks in his backpack (his carry-on) that were leftover from the 4th of July.  One of those firecrackers was in the shape of a grenade.  For some reason, he was prompted to look in his backpack and suddenly realized they were there when they got into LAX.  This, obviously, scared my sister-in-law a bit, and she knew it wouldn't be wise to just dump them in the trash (I could see the terror alert going to RED if those were found in one of the trash bins).  So, she went and reported it to the ticketing agent, who in turn, told them to go to the sky cap (I have no idea why they sky cap).

The sky cap proceeded to read my nephew the riot act and scared him into tears.  He is not one to get into this kind of trouble, but he was being told that he should be turned over to the TSA where they'd most likely arrest him as a potential terrorist and his parents will go to jail and he may never see his family again.  I guess they need to do this because a kid who would do this most likely was a no-good-punk.

After going through all that, they attempt to go through security and my nephew's backpack gets flagged again for extra scrutiny.

This time, the TSA agent starts yelling at him and his mom about not adhering to the liquids policy.  My sister in law was all, "What do you mean, I checked all our liquids".  Then the TSA pulled out their collection of snow globes they bought at Disney and said, "What do you think this is!".  They were then told that snow globes are contraband on planes and that she had the right mind to confiscate them.  Fortunately, they were the small ones and fit into 2 quart bags so they were able to take them on the plane. 

Now, I am a rather seasoned traveler and would've never, ever thought that a snow globe would've been flagged as a contraband liquid item.  Go figure. 

I could go on about my feelings about how we over reacted with the liquids ban, but this is a Disney blog

Edited to Add:

Apparently, according to this TSA website, Snow globes are banned from carry-on luggage no matter what, as well as, gel shoe inserts

TSA:  Permitted and Prohibited Items

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Disney Magic Falling on Deaf Ears

After much effort, I have managed to break free from the Imperius Curse put on me by some dark wizards who forced me to read the latest entry in the series of books about a certain boy wizard.

After being immersed in so much magical discussion, I thought I would focus my next entry on Magic....Disney Magic that is.

I know I saw it when I went to Disney World in 2006, but it was really noticeable when I went to Disneyland in June 2007.  It could have been because Disneyland was more densely packed than Walt Disney World was.

What is it that I'm talking about?  It is the proliferation of people wearing portable music devices while walking the parks.  I know that all those ear buds can not be binaural microphones :)

I actually heard Lou Mongello read a letter from one of his listeners on his The WDW Radio Show about how he, a father, refused to let his children don headphones once they step on the sacred ground known as a Disney Theme Park.  It was this that sparked my memory about my impressions when I saw this on my last trip to Disneyland.

Imagineers burn through a lot of dollars to design and implement the awesome rides and lands that we get to enjoy.  There is one portion of it that I really think is taken for granted......the soundtrack!

I never really gave a soundtrack or audio track that much concern until I took a class in college revolving around audio editing.  We were shown two versions of a the same film.  One version was the theatrical release.  The second version was one in which the only audio that was intact was the dialogue.  Everything else that was added "post production" was removed.  No musical scores were left and anything else added by the foley artist was removed.  Wow!  What a difference it made.  A lot of the life and mood of the film was gone.  It was almost dead in my mind.

It is like this at Disney.  Millions of dollars are invested in every sound and music track that you hear on rides and while walking around the parks.  There are very few details that aren't specifically chosen and designed.  Granted, the occasional unplanned bird may add to the soundtrack, but I bet you'd be surprised about how many bird calls, cricket sounds and other stuff are actually recorded tracks. 

But it's not just that.  At Disneyland, there is the sound of a telegraph machine you can hear near the New Orleans Square station of the railroad.  That telegraph is sending the text from Walt Disney's dedication speech for Disneyland.

There are entire podcasts devoted to this.  If you are fans of Window to the Magic Podcast and The Mouse Lounge Podcast you know the love these guys have for the parks.  If you haven't listened to either of these podcasts and are one who appreciates the ambient sounds of the parks, then I suggest you checking them out.  Window to the Magic devotes almost 100% of it's time to the sounds of the park.  The Mouse Lounge does devote time to the sounds of the parks but expands out to many of the music and other audio that is part of Disney parks, rides and movies. 

If it wasn't for the effort the Imagineers put into the sounds in addition to the sights of the parks, the game "Where in the Park" that they play on Window to the Magic would be kind of boring and difficult. 

There are people who deliberately deafen themselves to their surroundings.  They do this by wearing a MP3 player.  This seemingly ubiquitous device, most popularly seen in the form of the Apple iPod, has become an electronic appendage to many people of almost any age. 

Please people, put away the MP3 players.  Even if you are listening to one of the many fabulous Disney podcasts, you don't need to be listening to them while in the parks.  If you are listening to music, you are insulting the chef.  In fine dining establishments, it's often considered a major insult to the chef to ask for salt and/or pepper for your food.  By doing so, you are saying that you don't think the chef knows what he/she is doing.

By providing your own soundtrack, you are saying that the Imagineers don't know what they are doing.

It has been my experience that just the smallest fragment of a sound can dredge up all kinds of memories.  Pictures do it too, but it doesn't seem to have the same success as a sound or music.  You need much less of it to get the brain to start dumping.

The soundtracks of the Disney Theme Parks are going to be the thing that unlocks the memories of your childhood.  These memories are going to be what you are going to be thinking fondly of when you are much older.  By providing your own soundtrack, you might be preventing these fond memories from being unearthed when you are older and need them the most.

Friends don't let Friends wear ear buds at Disney

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sorry we cannot come to the Blog right now

We are currently under the control of another source of magic that seems to have also captured the attention of our friends at The Disney Geeks

Please leave a detailed comment and we'll get back to you as soon as we break from it's bond.  Thank you <beep>

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Friday, July 20, 2007

He said: One man's relationship with the Mouse

Last year, after my wife and I took our first trip to Walt Disney World as a couple (my 3rd trip, my wife's 1st), many people gave me odd looks when I told them that we planned on going back in a year.

Most people don't realize how important Disney is to me and in some sense, my sanity.

I don't really look back into my childhood with very many fond memories.  I had a task master of a mother and a dad who was gone a lot during my early years (he was out of the house for 3 out of every 4 weeks for my first 5-6 years) so that he can make a living for our family.  My mom knows she was who she was back then and honestly, I know she did the best she could with what she knew at the time and if she could go back with her current knowledge would do it totally different.

Well, until I was 8 years old, we lived in a small Southern California town called San Marcos.  While we lived there, my mom would get odd jobs and our family would often collect aluminum cans for recycling to raise money for an annual trip to Disneyland.

As I mentioned in my interview for Biblioadonis at The Disney Geeks Blog, my first memory of Disney was at Disneyland where I was terrified by the Wicked Witch character at the Disneyland parade.  This was on one of our many trips to Disneyland.  I stand corrected.  We didn't just go for Christmas because I can remember through the fog of time sitting through what I'm thinking is the Bicentennial Parade that Disneyland did for the 4th of July.

When it came to our going to Disney, it wasn't hard to convince my mom to go.  She LOVES fireworks and no one does fireworks like Disney.  So, it didn't take much convincing to go if the money was there.

I really don't remember much about going to the parks, but there is this Pavlovian response of calm and happiness that I experience when I think about going to a Disney theme park.  I know, without really remembering the details about it, that I enjoyed myself.  Despite the fact that I remember that I spent many a trip on the Haunted Mansion riding it with my little brother with my eyes clenched shut during the opening sequence (until the ballroom) and then closing them again during the graveyard scene.  I also remember quite clearly the Little Leota at the end of the ride reminding people to bring their "Death Certificates" with them next time.

I also remember riding the Pirates of the Caribbean.  I even told my little niece to not be ashamed of being afraid of Pirates because I too was freaked out by the skeletons in the beginning.  But, I eventually got over it and it's now one of my most favorite rides.  There was also Mr. Toads wild ride, Peter Pan's Flight and It's A Small world.  Once that song gets into your head, only death will pry it out.

I think between The Haunted Mansion and Snow White's Scary Adventure, my parents got the most drama when trying to get me to ride Snow White.  It all comes down to that darn Wicked Witch character in the parade.

In 1979, my family moved away from Southern California to the wonderful area of the country known as the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.  The downside was that we didn't get to go to Disneyland anymore.  But there was Walt Disney World on this coast, but my parents couldn't swing trips here as easily as they did to the little park that Walt built.

That changed in 1985.  My mom was insistent we travel to Walt Disney World on a package that pretty much allowed you to prepay for everything including meals.  It's modern counterpart would be the Platinum Magic Your Way Package.  At this time, you only had the two parks:  The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center (eventually Epcot dropped it's last name).  At EPCOT, the Living Seas was not there and Captain Eo was being advertised as "Coming soon".  Since I was a big fan of Michael Jackson's Thriller I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't there yet.

I had a blast on this trip, my dad took tons of pictures (which I've asked him to locate so I can digitize and archive).  We came back swearing we'd be coming back again. 

Well, that never happened.  In 1986, we ended up moving overseas and in 1992 we planned on trying to make a trip down again to celebrate my brother's graduation from high school. But, my dad lost his job and that scrapped the plans.

I got to go down in 1995 as part of my participation in the National Conference for Phi Beta Lambda.  As many convention attendees, I pretty much spent my time in the parks.  But, I was flying solo and that is just not quite the same as going with people.

Well, fast forward to 2001.  At this point, I've pretty much been denying my appreciation of things Disney since 1995.  I just didn't think it was normal for a male to like Disney at this adult age.  I was sure that people would view me as a child predator or something.  Well, in 2001, I met my wife.  She was and is an very avid Disney fan.  I swear you could play a couple bars of most songs from movie soundtracks and she'd know what movie it came from, what the song's name is and be able to sing it.  Since her voice is awesome, I never minded her singing the songs all the time.

It didn't take long before we talked about getting  married and where we'd like to Honeymoon.  It was a no-brainer....Walt Disney World.  But, it wouldn't be.  Neither of our jobs would really let us take the time off after we got married.  So, it took until 2006, our 4.5 year anniversary to make it to Walt Disney World.  Granted, we had been going to Disneyland every year since we had gotten married.  My wife's mom lived a hour away from Anaheim.  But, this was not Walt Disney World and the fact that my wife had never been made the desire to go that much stronger.

We went on the Platinum Magic Your Way Package and lived it up.  We loved it so much, we joined the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and that is how we'll be going again this year.

So, after reading all that I just wrote, you may be asking yourself, "What does that have to do with anything."

Well, I'm a type-A workaholic personality.  That is the main reason it took so long for my wife and I to get to Disney in the first place.  Well, once I got back to the parks, it was like I was 6 again at Disneyland.  There were no responsibilities, no worries, no concerns.  My wife would beg to differ because I was stressing about making our Advanced Dining Reservations on time, but I was having a blast.

Going to the Disney parks is how I relax.

But it's not just the parks.  It's also the movies and the collectibles.  To most people who know me, I'm most associated with Grumpy and Scrooge McDuck and I like to collect anything related to those characters.  My wife and I own over 50 Disney movies and we love watching them.  Who cares that you know the plots (and in my wife's case the songs), they are just great to watch.  They make me happy.

So, to tie all this into one simple paragraph.  I am in a relationship with the Mouse because Mickey and his friends make me happy.  I often don't know how to have fun until I enter a Disney theme park.  Walt knew how to make people have fun even if it was a foreign concept to them.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

She said: My Love Affair with the Mouse....How it all Began

I am one of five children.  My family could never afford a "true" family vacation.  Living in Oklahoma did not help matters either.  Branson, Missouri was close enough for most of my friend’s families to go but California and Florida was out of the question.  Any trip was too much for us.  Then IT happened.  My dad was offered a job opportunity that would take us to California. 

The anticipation was intolerable.  I had dreamed of this day.  I knew all of the songs.  I knew all of the movies.  Now I was ACTUALLY getting to go to Disneyland.  I didn’t know anyone that had been to Disney (either park - and yes the town really was that small).  Here I was – on my way.

The Castle was huge and gorgeous!  The crowds were nonexistent.  I think that I was able to meet all of the characters and take pictures with each of them.  The Nancy with Cinderellawhole experience seemed so surreal.  (Now is the perfect place to mention that I was a junior in high school).

Disney to each of us has a meaning.  For me it is the possibility that extraordinary things happen not only to ordinary people- but to people that society has forgotten or cast away.  Belle wasn’t the only one to have a happily ever after.  There was a “Beast” that not only found his princess but learned how to love and found love in return.  Pinocchio was a real boy because Geppetto put the effort into that puppet.  True friends stuck it out even when it was not popular.  Ariel was able to get her prince because of the efforts of friends.

Anything is possible with a little pixie dust and faith, but I think that the Disney magic goes far beyond the ever popular cliché.  It is the possibility that there is promising resolution after a misfortune, that there is hope that going against the grain can actually work AND make you successful.

IMG_1178When I was able to go to Disney World for my first time last September it even started to take on a whole new meaning for me.  It is a way to bond people together.  There are a lot of us out there who partake in this “Disney Magic”.  I was lucky enough to find a soul mate that sees the potential of this little Cinder Girl.  

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What would you do with a Billion Dollars? (Addendum)

I typically don't like to edit my posts to provide additional information because it might be missed by those people who have already read my post. 

After reading The Disney Blog and MouseExtra's posts about this news, I have to say that there is another major bit of contention that needs to be addressed if they want the expenditure of $1 Billion to make a bit of difference.

That bit of contention is the various ballot proposals that seem to be flying around Anaheim vying for the City Counsel's attention.

If I'm reading the various articles correctly, land developers want to build non-Disney housing, more specifically low-income housing, within a stone's throw of the Happiest Place on Earth.

I'm sure this housing would mostly be used by Disney Cast Members but I can see why Disney isn't happy about such requests.  They want as close to absolute control over the going's on in and around Anaheim as it will have a direct impact on their revenue stream.

The other thing that seems to be trying to capture the City Counsel's attention is that a very vocal minority of non-Disney dependant small businesses and locals are tired of the influence Disney exerts over the politics in Anaheim.  They are tired of the constant fireworks and disruptions to their life do to Disneyland being their neighbor. 

To them, I say "boo hoo, cry me a river".  That would by like complaining to the Salt Lake City Council about the influence The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has on the politics and economy of the city and more importantly the State of Utah.  It would be like complaining that the Vatican's politics are too influenced by the Catholic Church.  Or, more secularly, that Bentonville, Arkansas is too influenced by Wal-Mart and Hollywood is too influenced by the wishes and desires of the Democratic Party.

In the case of Anaheim, Salt Lake City, and The Vatican City, these towns/cities were pretty much put on the map by the entity that is providing the "influence" on politics. 

In the case of all the examples I gave, people moving into those areas should know what they are getting into.  If you don't:  A) you haven't done your research B) you live under a rock

I can probably safely say that there are very few people who call Anaheim home that were living there when it was just an orange grove.  They knew Disneyland was there.  They knew Disneyland is responsible for most of the action that goes on in that town and made it what it is today.

A couple people had the following to say on a thread started on Paul Barrie  & Patrick Hurd's Window to the Magic forum's (Anti-Disney Ballot Proposal in Anaheim)

Mouselounge said:

This is a case of the city biting the hand that feeds it.

Abovethefirehouse said:

those people that are complaining are punks. Disneyland was there before residential area was there and they need to shut up. they are the ones that moved next to Disneyland so they need to deal with it. 98% of the stuff out there is because Disneyland is there so people open a business or what ever. [Edited for spelling]

Mortis said:

I think Disney should forget doing a third park in CA and look elsewhere. Maybe Texas or mid West.

I myself commented that I wonder what will be the straw the breaks the camel's back and forces Disney to tell Anaheim to kiss off. 

But, once $1 Billion is expended, that is not likely to happen.  It would just be stupid.


So, in addition to the Customer Service problem, Disney executives really need to settle this dispute with Anaheim and it's constituents.  The last thing people want to do is come and vacation inside a political war-zone.


What would you do with a Billion Dollars?

Honor Hunter, of Blue Sky Disney, has just posted a great bit of information that is piggybacking off a great article written by Al Lutz over at MouseAge.

It seems that the "powers that be" who oversea the budgetary requests for the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim have approved a very large sum of money to be used to upgrade Disney's California Adventure.  That sum of money rings in at a heft sum of somewhere around 1 Billion dollars (yes, that is billion with a 'b').  That is a lot of zeros.

It offers up the question what would you do with a billion dollars and could use it to improve the second gate at Disneyland.   Well, Al Lutz's article at MouseAge entitled Resurrections & Returns provides a lot of details and more importantly opinions.

In addition, the aforementioned Honor Hunter adds some more details to the mix in his Blue Sky Alert-America (Anaheim): California Dreaming... 

So, in a nutshell, what is on the drawing board:

  • Re-imaging of the entire boardwalk area of California Adventure into something of a more Victorian-era beachside flair
  • Re-naming the towers and conference space at the Disneyland Hotel
  • A renewed tie to LucasFilm projects which may result in a Star Tour upgrade and/or another tie-in to the Indiana Jones franchise
  • Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort!
  • The list goes on

For me, a DVC Member, I am most excited about there finally being substantiated rumors of a DVC resort going to the West Coast park.  I have family who lives near Anaheim and it would be nice to be able to use my DVC points to be able to secure excellent accommodations at the park so that I don't have to pay (or make my relatives feel like they have to pay) for the room

In Al Lutz's article he expresses the much debated topic of how to go about doing this.  If you read enough, you know what is being proposed is much more than a simple nip/tuck.  It's more in line with a recently canceled ABC Program Extreme Makeover.  From the sounds of what is planned, those people who have graced the grounds of Disney's California Adventure will not recognize the park after they are done with it.  This puppy is getting hair plugs, liposuction, crowns and LASIK eye surgery.  When the curtain is pulled away, it sounds like jaws will be dropping.

This hasn't been the first time Disney has promised the moon and given us something quick short.  Something not even breaking the Earth's gravity.  The difference is that there seems to be people in charge now who actually care about  Disney.  Who care about Walt's original vision.

But, I would be remiss if I didn't put my curmudgeon opinion into the mix.  After all, I am the grump.

I don't care if Disney throws 1 million, 1 billion, or 1 trillion dollars at the problem and produces the most slick, most technologically advanced theme park that can be put out there.  I don't care if they re-invent the theme park with this windfall sum of money.  If they don't solve the biggest problem facing Disneyland, it will be all for naught.

What problem is that you are asking?  If you've been to Disneyland and had the opportunity to be able to compare it to other Disney resorts you will know what I'm talking about........


It is the opinion of this grump that the service levels at Disneyland are atrocious.  On page 4 of Al Lutz's article he attempts to explain why this is so and, as usual, it seems to be the misguided and misaligned goals of  Human Resources department. 

I'm often amazed at how quickly companies that rely almost entirely on the good will that is generated from good word of mouth and good customer service quickly throw the quality of their customer service out the window.  A very good day at the parks can be quickly ruined by a badly chosen action by a Cast Member.  Conversely, a terrible day or even a terrible trip can be turned completely around by a well chosen action or series of actions by a concerned Cast Member.

As was told to me by one of the Concierges at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World, it doesn't matter if Disney is directly responsible for the things that go wrong to one of our guests, if we don't do something to try and alleviate the affect it is having on their trip, their memories will make the tie to Disney.


To sum up.....

I am excited to hear about the amount of money being earmarked for Disney's California Adventure.  I will be chomping at the bit to purchase a DVC add-on for the Disneyland DVC.  But, if they don't improve the quality of customer service over at that park, the bragging about this possibly be turning into the best 2nd gate since EPCOT will quickly fizzle away.

Hopefully, some of that $1 Billion will be devoted to giving Human Resources (aka Casting) a swift kick in the butt and realign them with what made Disneyland the "Happiest place on Earth".  And I'm sure that didn't just apply to the guests in Walt's opinion.  I'm sure he meant it to also apply to his employees, his Cast Members.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SPECIAL Live from WDW ExploreTheMagic.com Show, 07-17-207

That's right, we are going to attempt to do a live show from Disney's Boardwalk! Tonight at around 9ish... but probably closer to 10 PM EST.
This is completely experimental, we don't know if it work using a broadband WiFi hotspot so cross your fingers and spread the word!

From what Michael is telling me, if they are able to pull off this live feed using a Wi-Fi hotspot, it's going to be loads of fun.

If you want to know how to log into the chat and participate or just listen to the feed, check out the instructions the Disney Geek (George) provided on his blog:

Daily Figment 06 - Live Internet Broadcast

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Introducing my Enchanted Rose

My wife, Nancy, is probably as big of a Disney fan as I am but in different ways.  She didn't like seeing me have all the fun with this blog so after some discussion, so she asked if she could provide some content.

She has started a couple drafts of some topics she wants to talk about and I hope to have them posted soon.  Due to her odd work schedule (3 PM - 3 AM), it is hard for her to sit down in front of a computer without falling asleep.

I told her that she needed to come up with a nice moniker since I blog under the name of Grumpwurst. 

Since Beauty & the Beast is one of her most favorite Disney movies, she has decided to call herself "Enchanted Rose"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Disneyland Tips from my recent trip

These are tips that I picked up while being at Disneyland during the peak of season....

  • To make the memory get jogged better for trip reports, take a picture of the signage of everything you do. Then you can sort the pictures by date/time taken and use it as an outline for your trip report.
  • Internet is free in Disneyland Resort hotels. I brought my computer so I could dump my flash cards of their pictures. My laptop fit into the room safe so that is where it lived during the day. If you have a way to empty your flash cards, you can take as many pictures as you want. I took over 2,600.
  • Paying extra for the Concierge-level room paid off for us. We were able to stay in constant supply of bottled waters for the parks, plus get snacks throughout the day. We stayed at Paradise Pier Hotel and if you cut through the Grand Californian, and didn't have kids, you could get from "It's a Small World" to the hotel in less than 20 minutes. (if you are a brisk walker like my wife and I). It's still a heck of a lot more convenient than the resort hotels at WDW.
  • Only Coke products are available on Disneyland property. If you must drink something else, buy it offsite and bring it with you.
  • The Finding Nemo Submarine Ride is the people eater of the season. Even though the times board only listed a 90 minute wait, it was topping out around 4 hours. Even if you made it to rope drop, you'd still end up in an hour-long wait unless you were really lucky. People were camping out from 5am onward to get first in line for park opening. Because of this, you can get to the park at opening and pretty much ride anything you want for about 2 hours without a wait or a very, very short wait.
  • This tip was passed onto me from Tim Devine (owner of The Magic in Pixels). Once the fireworks are done, if you give it about an hour the park will be practically yours. We rode both Pirates and Haunted Mansion between 10:30 and 11:30PM without any wait.
  • Strategy is key. If you like standing in lines, this isn't important for you. The unofficial guide preached this and it's true. Once it gets close to lunch, the parks are PACKED. If you want a nap, this is the time to take it (between 2-6PM). Or you can shop. The shops seemed to be very easily managed during the height of the day.
  • Chicken Strips are a rare find at Disneyland. If you do find them, they would only sell them to you if you were under the age of 10. When we ate at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill I wanted a bean & cheese burrito which was only on the kids menu. So my sister-in-law ordered it for her kid so I could get it. They don't let you order off the kids menu if you are an adult with no kids in sight.
  • There is a McDonald's within walking distance from the parks. As Tim Devine put it, it's the best McDonald's on the planet. Prices are cheap in comparison to Disneyland.

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Disneyland Trip Report

George from The Disney Geeks made an observation that people may not notice that I've been adding days to my recent trip report for my trip to Disneyland.  I like to set the posting dates on my trip reports to reflect the actual days that are being reported on. 

That means that the posts are further down the list.  If you are reading my blog via a RSS Reader, you are getting the posts, but if you are not, you may not even know they exists.

You can follow the following line:  Ray's Trip Report Posts, or just hit the link for the Trip Report category to the left

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Getting Fit for the Trip

Before taking our trip to Disneyland, I was able to drop from a size 32 pant to a size 30. I did this by going to the gym at least 3-4 times a week and doing heavy lifting.

My formula was to do what is called a step-up pyramid. This involved doing 5 sets for each exercise. The weight must be such that it is challenging enough to get just the number of reps you were shooting for:

  1. 10 reps
  2. 8 reps
  3. 6 reps
  4. 4 reps
  5. 2 reps

I would do 3 exercises per muscle group. This had remarkable improvements to my physique. I haven't been happy with how "soft" I had started to get and that was due to my intense work schedule and lack of motivation to do anything but sit on the couch when I wasn't working.

On top of the weight training, I was spending the other nights of the week doing time on our treadmill.Side Profile

I did:

  • 5 minutes @ 3.6 MPH
  • 5 minutes @ 3.7 MPH
  • 5 minutes @ 3.8 MPH
  • 15 minutes @ 3.9 MPH
  • 15 minutes @ 4.0 MPH

As it got closer to the time to go, I was able to spend that last 15 minutes stepping up the speed to the point where I was jogging at 5.0 MPH.

Now that I'm back. I have a new goal for the trip to Walt Disney World in September.

That new goal is to drop to a 28" waist. This would put me back to where I was all throughout the 1990's.

To do this, I will be picking up the cardio routine my wife's personal trainer has handed down to her.

My wife had been subjected to 6 months of Prednisone (a steroid) to help her with inflammation due to her Crohn's Disease.  This caused her to put on at least 50 lbs.

This was 2-3 years ago. Since Prednisone messes with one's body chemistry, this weight gain isn't just due to over eating.  Therefore, it's hard to get off.  She has stripped most of the weight herself and the personal trainer is the final butt kicking to get her where she needs to be.  So far, as of Disneyland, she's gone from a size 14-16 dress size to a size 12 (and that was a tad too large). He goal is a size 8/10.

Well, her personal trainer has us doing interval cardio training now.

If you have access to a track, you'll want to swiftly walk the corners and sprint the straightaways for 30 minutes.

If you don't have a track at your disposal (like we don't), you will need to use an elliptical trainer or a treadmill (we have a treadmill).

So, I have started the new cardio training as of tonight.

This is what I did:

  • 1.5 minutes walking at 4.0 MPH
  • 30 seconds at 10 MPH
  • Repeat

When I hit the 27 minute mark, I just set the speed to 6MPH and jogged until the 30 minute mark was surpassed. Then I walked for 5 minutes at 3 MPH.

Ultimately the treadmill said I traveled 2.8 miles and burned 418 calories. This is much farther and more calories than the previous routine.

This is supposed to cause my body to crank up the metabolism.

On top of that, I'm to increase my protein. I'll be doing that with Protein Shakes that taste nasty.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

ExploreTheMagic Live "Radio" Broadcast - 7/11/2007 at 9PM (EST)

Disney World Discounts, Tickets, Resorts, Hotels, Maps, Forums, Weather, News and Trip/Budget Planner!

On Wednesday, July 11 2007, ExploreTheMagic.com will be hosting a live, online program. This program will be along the same grain as the terrestrial radio call-in format.

This show format is the brainchild of Michael Suhrbier the owner of ExploreTheMagic.com.

The aim is to allow people who love Disney to be able to call in and interact with the various hosts and get answers to questions that may have been plaguing them.

As of this moment, in addition to myself, Michael Suhrbier, Biblioadonis (aka George) from The Disney Geeks, we have a strong tentative co-hosting commitment from Tim Devine (owner of The Magic in Pixels, as well as, co-host of The Magical Definition Podcast). To quote Mr. Divine, “The more people we have onboard, the more fun it will be.”

There will be an associated chat room available so that all the various Disney lovers can interact with each other during the program and banter to their hearts content about whatever they like.

To get more information you can go to the following link:

It should be noted that you do not need to be a member of the ExploreTheMagic forums (or any forum for that matter), to participate.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Grumpy Review: Ratatouille

Well, in a true grump's fashion, I am late to the party. I was dragged to the viewing of Ratatouille this afternoon.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't want to see it, nor that I'm not a big fan of Disney movies. It's that I hate going to the movies.....period! It has lost its appeal to me. I have a much better viewing environment in my own home. I have high quality sound and a large 61" DLP HDTV. Yeah, it's not a gigantic screen like in my local theater, but it has the best feature of all......no annoying patrons.

So, in order to get me to pay outrageous ticket prices, the movie must be one of those kinds of films that lose something being viewed in the comforts of my own home. The Pirates of the Caribbean films are examples of this.

Regardless of my feelings on the subject, my wife didn't agree with them so off we went to the theater.

One gigantic benefit of being late to the party is that you don't have to fight the crowd. Much like how I was able to leverage off the popularity of the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, we were able to leverage off the popularity of the new movie about cars that transform into robots.

The theater was mostly empty which helped me focus on the movie better.

There weren't a lot of trailers which was a big disappointment to me. I look forward to the trailers of coming attractions just as much as I do the main feature. There was the trailer for WALL*E which my wife hadn't seen yet. It was nice to hear her whisper to me, "Johnny Five!" since that has been a common commentary about the resemblance of the protagonist of this new film from Pixar.

Well, I'm going to have a hard time adding anything to the mix that hasn't already been said about Pixar.

I must concur with many of the other reviewers out there that this is a movie that is very enjoyable and could very well be considered one of the best story lines put out by Pixar. I was even unable to predict the ending (which is something that annoys my wife since I like to predict the ending about halfway through the film).

I have always been a fan of CGI Animated features. Don't get me wrong, I love hand-drawn animation as much as the next guy, but the type of films Pixar makes is a totally different beast. In some ways, I feel they shouldn't be lumped together in with traditional animation when getting nominated for awards. Heck, I think there should be greater efforts to just plain differentiate them.

Having said that, I found myself really looking at the level of detail in what I was watching. I don't know how many people notice such things as that level of pitting in the metal that makes up the feet of the tables in kitchen. I also like to observe how much things like hair and water improve over time. I'm sure if you compared scenes from Toy Story to Ratatouille you'd be amazed how much some of these details have improved.

It's just an observational quirk on my part and isn't a distraction in my opinion. It's just something that I like to enjoy much like some people enjoy to appreciate the cinematography of a live action film.

What really added something to this movie for me was that I knew, thanks to Jim Hill's contribution to the June 24th Episode of the Magical Definition Podcast, that this movie was the one being created to sell to other distributors since Disney had decided to dump Pixar. It was only due to the fact that Disney bought Pixar that this movie was released by "the Mouse". Having known that going into the movie, you could really see how they were "pulling out all the stops" to make a movie some other company would just want to snatch up.

I can just see the character dining tie-ins to this movie. Heck, I'm really wondering, pending the global success of this movie, if we have a future possibility of dining at Gusteau's or Le Ratatouille within the France Pavilion in Epcot.

Don't miss this movie. If you miss it at the theater, snatch it up when it hits DVD or Blu-Ray. You'll regret having enjoyed this movie

The wife and I are looking forward to adding this to our Disney Movie Collection

On my grumpy 5 harrumph scale, I give this movie 4 1/2 harrumphs!

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Grump's Opinion - The Giant Golf Ball

As anyone who's keeps up with the goings on in this extremely exciting, entertaining and niche market known as the Disney Community knows, it has been officially announced that the Mickey Arm, Wand and Epcot sign is coming down from the centerpiece of the Epcot park, the Geodesic Sphere known as Space Ship Earth (SSE) or as I like to call it, the Giant Golf Ball.

This has sparked conversations all over blogs and web forums through the ether. One such location was Mouse Extra with their posting entitled Disney Announces an end to the Wand.

In many ways, I’m in the same position as Dave who wrote the article. But I think the best bit from his piece was this:

Now I get it!!! Well purists, you got your 25th Anniversary celebration after all! No more belly-aching about a lack of “Epcot 25” snowglobes or pins. No more whining that there isn’t a special parade for the quarter century milestone, or an eighteen month long celebration with special figment hats. You’ve got the ultimate birthday present this year. The wand is coming down. What more could you have asked for?

Now, some people may wonder where the Grump’s opinion lays. Well, I am a purist but not in the same sense as the others that call themselves “purists”. I am a purist from the standpoint that the theme, purpose and message of the Disney Theme Parks, AS A WHOLE, remains intact. Wand or no wand, I think Epcot is still remaining true to that.

As a child, my family wasn’t big on staying put. We moved about every 5-7 years. It may have been a short move across town or across state boarders. But, we moved. My mom likes to tell the story about how my brother or I would come to them and ask if it was time to move after we had been in one place to long.

Having said that, I had to learn two lessons at an early age:
  1. Change is unavoidable
  2. You can never go home again.
Yeah, they are clichés, but they do hold true. With me, I was always in a new town, new school, or just plain new. But the other one, “You can never go home again.” Was the hardest to swallow.

I would often go back to my old towns to see my friends that I had to leave behind. After the excitement wore off of being back, it was quickly realized that this person, who was your best friend, is not the same person you knew a few weeks or months prior. They had moved on without you. They have changed and done what they need to do to get by.

Well, I guess you are wondering what this means in regards to all of this Disney talk.

Change is unavoidable. Charles Darwin is credited with saying,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
These parks cannot remain stagnant. Stagnation will lead to death.

Well, if you insert WDW into the cliché as being “home”, my other kernel of knowledge about not ever being able to go home again can apply to WDW. Everyone has a first trip to WDW. You don’t come out of the womb a highly experienced WDW visitor. There had to be a beginning. That beginning, no matter your age, embeds feelings, images, smells into our psyche. I’m sure neurons are rewired just for Disney. Some day, I’m sure, scientists are going to be talking about the discovery of the Disney section of the brain.

Well, those indelible marks shape each successive return to Disney. But, guess what? It’s never the same. Unless you are in that rare minority that gets to travel there several times a year, something is always different. That difference may be minor, or it may be major (i.e. a giant arm sprouting out of the Giant Golf Ball). This goes back to point #1, that Change is unavoidable. Well these differences sometimes grate annoyingly against those memories stored in the Disney section of your brain, thereby causing it to cramp up and fight back. Some people accept point #1 and just deal and force the neurons to continually rewire, others side with their memories and nostalgia and fight for the way things were. Those are the “purists” in the more traditional sense. I have nothing wrong with that. Disney is one of those things in all of our lives that makes us really, really, really happy (why else would be be reading blogs such as this). With things such as Disney that bring much pleasure, there is always a part of every one of us that doesn't want anything messing up a "good" thing. But that is always a subjective observation.

Just like I couldn’t force my childhood friends to stay just like I remembered them, I cannot force Disney to stay the way I remember it.

Some people may have been asking themselves since it’s inception why would Epcot allow this to happen to itself. Here is the grump’s take on this….

When the Giant Golf Ball decided to sprout a wand bearing arm and giant 2000, Epcot was transitioning into it’s 20’s. With the exception of one’s teenage years, the early 20’s has to be one of the most dangerous times. It’s when we really start experimenting with new things to set us apart. Well, Epcot went through this. Trying to figure out where it stood in the family.

So, why an arm and a wand? If I could offer a guess, it would be whimsy. Maybe Epcot was tired of being Alex P. Keaton in a family of liberal ex-hippies. Maybe Epcot was tired feeling like the guy who forgot it was casual Friday and showed up in their suit while everyone else was sporting Hawaiian print shirts and sporting shorts.

Epcot was in really lacking whimsy and it was the key of the other parks. You had the whimsical Cinderella Castle with it’s Fantasyland, zany skippers on the Jungle Cruise and Hitchhiking Ghosts. In the Animal Kingdom, you had a gigantic tree built around an offshore oil rig which has animals carved into it’s exterior and contains a 3D movie house in it’s interior. Finally, you had MGM-Studios which was the home of the Muppets, Indiana Jones and, of course, "The Hat" (another point of contention amongst purists).

Epcot is the geeky child amongst the hip, cool ones. And like many geeky kids, they often want to fit in better than they do. It’s only natural. So it made a valiant effort. This grump doesn’t fault Epcot for trying and doesn’t think less of it for trying to do so. I kinda liked it. I think it gave the Giant Golf Ball some life, but us geeks need to stick together and remain true to who we are.

Well, as much as the purists hated it, I don’t think they were the ones who influenced Epcot to put down the gigantic wand. It’s more of a product of growing older. Epcot is turning 25 and has most likely come to grips with it’s role as being the more geeky member of the family and has decided it’s time to stop trying to be something it’s not and put down the wand and focus on what it brings to the family…education, entertainment, and the occasional heavily sponsored glimpse into the future.

To this grump, Epcot was and still is the Mr. Wizard and the Alton Brown of Disney. It took dry boring subject material and rolled it in Disney Magic and made it palatable. As long as it remembers that is what it’s purpose and message is then I’ll be happy. I think they are starting to remember that.

Maybe the wand was just a gigantic reminder that there is Magic in Epcot. Maybe we don’t need that reminder anymore.

But don’t ever underestimate the geeks. They have their secret desires to be Fantasmic! So every now and again they will do something that makes you shake your head but remember that they may be happy with it. The Wand may be going away, but Epcot’s desire to fit in will not and will break out the whimsical every now and again (aka Nemo, Mission to Space, Figment).

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Well, it appears to be official

Attention, Attention, we interrupt my regularly scheduled Trip report to bring you this breaking news:

Ding dong the witch Arm is Dead!

A subject matter that has been as hotly debated as whether to buy a Nikon or Canon dSLR will finally be put to bed. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Mickey arm, magic wand, and EPCOT sign that has been affixed to the Space Ship Earth (otherwise known as the Giant Golf Ball) in some form or fashion since the 2000 millennium celebration will be coming down. You can read more at the Orlando Sentinel site:

Mickey Mouse arm, wand coming down from Epcot sphere at Disney World