A Heavy Heart for Orlando

June 13, 2016 12:12am
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This has been a real shitty weekend.

Friday night saw the death of YouTube musician Christina Grimmie who was shot while she was signing autographs outside of the venue where she had just performed.

And then Saturday night brought the worst mass shooting in US history as a man walked into a gay nightclub and gunned down 50 people, presumably because he was homophobic and possibly had ties to ISIS.

A lot of words want to come out, but none of them feel quite right.

I’ve spent a bunch of time watching social media scroll past the last couple of days as these events have unfolded just an hour’s drive from my home, and I know that in the past I’ve occasionally mused about whether I should’ve gone into journalism instead of the path that I’m on now, but in watching all that’s transpired this weekend, I say with great sincerity that I don’t know if I could do it.

Watching these people trying to sort out fact from rumor, all while everyone around them is screaming for answers and they’re fighting the misinformation spread by colleagues who might subscribe to less stringent journalistic standards like getting one’s facts straight and not just using each other as news sources to push their headlines … in world where less people want the answer as opposed to just an answer that they can like on Facebook before moving on to the next thing in their news feed, often times it seems like it would be such a thankless job for such a huge emotional toil…

…and here, I just write jokes about poopy diapers and funny names to call to your own farts. 😛

My sister, who recently moved to Orlando, pointed out how scary it all is because it just shows how things like this can really happen anywhere – you never know when you’re out to have a good time and a crazy person shows up with a gun under their coat, looking to take out their frustrations in life on a crowd of innocent people. I live in Tampa with my family, but we spend enough time in Orlando to be considered part-time residents anyways and this kind of thing could’ve just as easily took place at Disney Springs or at one of the new attractions on I-Drive, or even at the local mall down the street from our house.

It just makes you feel so helpless because you can’t do anything to prevent what happened – that’s all said and done. And you can’t stop your own life out of fear because what’s the point of living if you don’t get out and actually live your life?

So instead we cry, and we hold hands, and we do our best to honor the victims through vigils and prayers and happy thoughts in the face of this cowardly evil. Whether it’s enough or not is kind of irrelevant because at the end of the day, it’s all that we can do until we’re ready to exercise anything that we’ve learned from these events to change the political side … if there’s even anything that can be done, anyways.

Through it all, I would say that there have been a few shining lights this weekend that I’ve personally observed myself:

  • The journalists who take pride in what they do to share the facts and not let all of the rumor and assumption get in the way of that effort as they strive to inform the people in the best way they know how.
  • The people who lined up across social media to share all of their kind words about the talented Christina Grimmie, and then literally lined up around the block today to give blood which has been in short supply after the shooting.
  • The people of Orlando who take pride in their city and just wanted to share their support – a slideshow of scenes from the various theme parks with all of the employees and characters sending their love was one of my favorites!
  • And lastly, believe it or not, the politicians who offered their condolences without taking advantage of these horrific incidents. There will be a time and a place where we’ll expect actions and words, but those that weren’t boisterous get an extra point in my book today.

I admittedly don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll wrap things up with a couple of choice tweets that I liked this evening…

Death of a Newspaper

May 3, 2016 6:29pm
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It was a little sad, but honestly not at all surprising to read today that one of our two local papers – The Tampa Tribune – is closing up shop, as it was just acquired by its competition.

I’d link to the video by their CEO “announcing” this exciting change, but even ironically it’s a painfully stale video to watch … one of those pieces of evidence that will surface 50 years from now and make people think, “Wow, so your print journalism was still alive back when this guy was somehow a part of it?!”

Anyways, I was just thinking about how when I first moved to Florida … or technically even before I moved here, I was an avid reader of The Tampa Tribune. As soon as I got here, I signed up for a full subscriber to kind of soak in the locality as much as possible, but I think a good year prior to that I actually would get their Sunday editions mailed to me at home up in Michigan! They would arrive about a week late and I would use them mostly for scoping out jobs and apartments, but also just in general to sort of fantasize about this far off land that I dreamed of moving to eventually one day…

Hell, I think I actually even applied for a few jobs with the Tribune over the years, but clearly those never got too far! 😯

I guess I stopped reading the Tribune probably 5-6 years ago when it became more common to have a stack of papers sitting in the corner that I had to make a conscious effort to flip through before throwing them in the recycling bin. Slowly there became less and less that they had to say that I hadn’t already read in one form or another online, plus computers have always had this nice way of not turning your thumbs black while you’re reading them, and so eventually I just canceled my subscription altogether and really just never looked back.

The state of journalism itself these days kind of has me torn because although some publishers have done ok or better at embracing digital media, most of the big guys like the Tribune and the Times have not and as a result it’s left a bit of a hole in the news that needs to be filled one way or another. In some cases we’re seeing TV stations and even radio branch onto online to snag in those readers, but they still ultimately have the same issues that print ran into – finding a way to financially support their efforts without either selling out to special interests or else just putting entertainment first and making it hard to take them seriously when it comes down to real news.

And of course, the web and social media have made it easier than ever for groups and organizations themselves to share their own news, so I suppose that some of the playing field left behind is still covered by them, but then there’s always the conundrum of honesty vs. being self-serving, too…

Personally I’d think what I’d like to see is some new local news organizations popping up to take the place of these corporate behemoths who can no longer seem to make a profit in the space. The Internet being a super cheap replacement for the classic printing press and technology in general continuing to rival that which goes into professional productions, there’s no reason that a small team of passionate journalists couldn’t get together and create their own local media company to cover the same types of things that these newspapers used to cover. Unless their plan is to strictly target senior citizen communities, newspapers aren’t going to make a comeback – at least not with any generation who can operate an iPad without having to call their grandkids for tech support – so the barriers for entry in this new age world of journalism are really lower than ever.

Because we need local coverage in our daily lives to talk about the things that didn’t happen around the country in New York or Los Angeles. And a media company for a mid-sized metropolitan area like the Tampa Bay region may not be able to support the 250+ employees that the Tribune was said to have had prior to today’s announcement, but 20-30% of that including a decent, local sales team? It seems like it should be very doable, and it would be a great asset to a community that continues to grow despite its conglomerate-owned media giants flailing for relevancy because they simply don’t know how to do business in a world where most readers don’t care about print and won’t pay for an online subscription.

Mind you, *I* certainly have no desire to take on that challenge myself, but for our local journalists who are really passionate about the thing that they do – you’ve probably got better odds trying your own thing than you do vying for a spot at the paper.

So yesterday we spent the day at SeaWorld Orlando awing at whales and learning about sea turtles and just generally enjoying the Christmas spirit as they pumped Christmas music around the decorated park. We haven’t actually been to SeaWorld in about eight years and even then was only a brief visit during our engagement trip, so it was neat both to revisit the park as well as introduce Christopher to it for the first time, all on top of getting to experience the place all decked out for the holidays for the first time to boot!

Granted, it fell a bit short of throwing a giant Santa hat on a 6,000-pound killer whale, but I thought they still did a nice job, particularly unique to the whole SeaWorld atmosphere with all of the illuminated trees lit up across the harbor a la the Sea of Trees. Christopher has gotten more and more into Sesame Street recently and absolutely loved Elmo’s Christmas Wish, and we even got to meet Santa, albeit I’ve never really been a fan of The Polar Express that his “attraction” – if you will – was based on…

We ended up getting passes to SeaWorld (and Legoland!) for Black Friday this year, so I’ll probably have some more to write up about the park in the future, but for now it was just a nice celebration in a new place we don’t normally visit, and my kid got to make some brand new sea turtle friends to boot! 😉

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Florida Living Done Right

March 16, 2015 4:44pm
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The last couple of days were great, reflective in a way, and yet also a strange reminder of how sometimes I don’t feel as though I’m “living in Florida right.”

Yesterday we spent the afternoon out and about – went to have lunch at a restaurant by the water over where my Dad is staying, and then sat outside and talked a while longer before heading down to Clearwater Beach in an attempt to catch the sunset. We didn’t make it, but we walked with Christopher along the beach anyways, then poked around some of the gift shops and strolled down Pier 60 out into the water a ways.

I love looking down the coastline and seeing it all lit up from the various hotels and festivities, with the sound of the waves rolling up onto the shore around us.

One of the hotels looked like it even had a giant TV that it was projecting onto the side of one of its walls on the top – very cool!

Two days prior to that, while we were out getting Christopher is first haircut we stopped at a new seafood place by our house and had a great lunch just enjoying the atmosphere, showing Christopher all of the giant fish that were mounted up on the walls, and even giving him his first taste of conch fritters! 🙂

And I guess I classify some of this as strange simply because between all of the waves and the delicious crab and the random Corona (which I haven’t had in ages), it all seemed to come together in a way that made me yearn for that part of Florida that we probably don’t step out to enjoy nearly as often as we should. It was great to hear the island music playing in the distance and see people running around in swim suits everywhere and breathe the air coming in off the gulf.

It makes me sad that we live as far away from the actual coast as we do…

Of course the real trouble is, waterfront real estate is really expensive!!! Trust me – I spent far too much time this afternoon skimming over listings yet again, and even just empty lots that we could build on are few and far between. Yet as Sara and I talk about having more kids and expanding the family, I think we’re both starting to feel a little stir crazy in this house and it gets us thinking about our dream house that we eventually want to move into where we’ll (in theory) live out the rest of our days in relaxing luxury! 😉

Maybe that million-dollar beachfront estate is still a few years off, but in the meantime I don’t think it’s too far out of line to say that my life could use a little more of the following in it…

  • time spent at the beach
  • shrimp and crabs
  • Jimmy Buffett music
  • relaxation a la waves
  • seashells

*sigh*

When I made my first pilgrimage to Legoland Florida a couple of years ago, afterwards I wrote this HUGE blog post about all of the things that I liked as well as some of the things that stood out where I felt improvement was needed.

Well, yesterday we spent the afternoon there once more and from the minute I walked in, I knew that I’d be writing a follow-up post like this one the next day … but not necessarily in a great way.

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In summary:

  • From a family fun perspective, I had a blast yesterday at Legoland and it was neat to see some of the new additions and things we hadn’t seen last time.
  • From the theme park critic’s perspective, however, I think that for only being opened less than 3 years, Legoland Florida is already starting to go frighteningly downhill.

So where do we start???

The Water Park
Last time we didn’t get to go because although we paid to add the water park option to our tickets, by the time we got to the back corner of the park it had been closed due to inclement weather, so this time we sort of made a bee line straight for the water because we left pretty late and didn’t arrive until afternoon and it was already starting to heat up…

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Star Wars Miniland Detour
Of course, my nephew is a Star Wars nut and had been looking forward to this part for who knows how long, so we ended up planning our route through the newest section of Miniland so that he (and I!) could check it out first and foremost!

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This area was definitely a nice touch – I particularly liked the Millennium Falcon preparing for takeoff, though it would’ve been cool to somehow fit the Death Star into the scene, too!

I want to note that this particular portion was the only part of the day that really matched the same wow vibe as my first visit…

A Merchandising Opportunity Missed
Now upon our arrival at the water park … and boy is that walk all of the way through the park still a long one … my first call of duty was to pick myself up a towel. I purposely didn’t bring one because I wanted to get one with the Legoland logo on it to add to our collection back home for pool parties and whatnot. After a quick spin through their closet of a gift shop at the entrance to the park, I was a little bit taken aback that this was the closest I could get…

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Not a single brick-laden towel to be found, or the Legoland Florida front gate logo, or anything! They had about eight equally bland designs of different colors and themes like pink and pirates, but none of them had any resemblance towards Legoland aside from having the word LEGOLAND in a random font that wasn’t the official one you see everywhere else.

One of the ladies working in the shop, listening to me complain even agreed, “Yeah, that would be a really good idea – I don’t know why we don’t have anything like that…” I don’t know if this is another stupid licensing agreement between Lego and Merlin where they couldn’t get it together to associate their logo with merchandise, but I was really disappointed a) because I couldn’t get the towel that I imagined getting, and b) because I had to waste $16 on that ugly thing that I didn’t want in the first place in order to have a way to dry myself when we were done!

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Seriously, they managed to put the Legoland logo on the tag … how difficult is this?! Plain white towel with that logo to fill the entire thing … BAM! 

You can have that marketing idea for free … or at least for the cost of a free towel to replace the one that I ended up having to buy instead!  😛

Also, 10 minutes later I ended up buying a pair of flip-flops, too, because I hadn’t brought any and my feet were on fire, and those ended up breaking within a matter of hours … merch wasn’t a real positive feature of this visit, to say the least… 🙁

Floating Around…
Of course, immediately after everyone got changed, the baby decided that it was time to eat, so Sara and I took a break and fed him while everyone else jumped in the lazy river. We joined them a short while later and had fun making a few laps around ourselves before most were ready for more adventurous waters. It’s definitely a lot shorter than either of Disney’s water parks … I read that Legoland’s river is only 1,000 feet long, whereas Typhoon Lagoon is over 2,000 (my favorite) and Blizzard Beach is upwards of 3,000! But it was still fun for what it was … definitely geared towards the little kids, though even I was able to amuse myself with the floating bricks by making a little “carrier” on my tube to hold my sandals (not yet broken) as we floated around… 🙂

We also noted by the end of this adventure that between the water parks and our pool at home, we could probably stand to invest in one of those waterproof cases for our cameras so that we can actually get some action photos in the water!

Wading Away
Eventually we made it over to the main part of the water park where there was a big play area for kids surrounded by wading-depth water that we ended up entertaining Christopher in while the other kids went on the slides. The giant bucket at the top that would dump every few minutes was kind of neat, although my perspective may be biased due to my ability to time not getting hit by it!

All and all it was definitely clear that the entire park in general is built around younger guests, as there were really only a couple of things that older kids and their parents would be interested in going on without having little children in tow. Which is fine, but it really rang home why I don’t like how the water park’s pricing is structured because due to its location, you can’t only purchase admission to the Legoland Water Park … it’s only available as an add-on for the main park itself. I’ll talk more about this later, but essentially Sara and I ended up paying Legoland admission to spend maybe 20 minutes overall doing things in actual Legoland, and the rest of our day was spent in the water … which is a $15 add-on… 😕

P.S. The wave pool was fun and is probably a little easier for smaller kids than the big one at Typhoon Lagoon … I even managed to get out in “the deep end,” which is something that I’d never do at Typhoon Lagoon!

Nice Slides, Poor Design
Nearing closing time for the park, I was informed that my niece wanted Aunt Sara and Uncle Scott to go on some of the bigger water slides with her – the dark and scary one, to be precise! 😯

They basically have four or five slides tucked out of the way that are more grown-up than the ones at the play area … one with a pretty steep incline that I didn’t want any part of and another that seemed to open up just at the worst possible time, and also a couple of tube-based rides that were more my speed, and thankfully those were the ones that she actually wanted to do.

Unfortunately, I only got to ride once due to a really poor queue design because when I went to grab a tube, there weren’t any and all the park employee could tell me was that “I had to wait until another guest brought one back.” Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but there was nobody who was actually enforcing that, so whereas instead of like at Disney where you get in line, get a tube, ride down the slide, drop off your tube, and then get in line again if you want to ride again, I was probably passed by a couple of dozen people who just got right off the end of the slide and hopped in line again with their same tubes, so essentially I had to wait for someone to be done riding the slide before I could actually get a turn.

Really poor system and it gave me a lot of time to sit at the end of the slide fuming about all of the other operational issues that I had noticed around the park that day, but then came another blunder that was almost equally as bad in my book…

How NOT to Talk to Your Guests…
So I got up to the top for my second ride, and the employees at the top announced that they had to shut the ride down due to inclement weather.

Bummer, but it happens and as much as some people were protesting, you could see the sky getting dark in one direction quite distinctly and an hour later it was lightning’ing something fierce, so better safe than sorry when you’re standing on a giant metal tower in the middle of a pool of water, right?!

Well, one of the guests in line shouts out – “Do you have any idea how hard it is for these kids to climb all the way up here?!”

And then one of the lifeguards shouts back – “Do you have any idea how much it sucks to get hit by lightning?!”

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong, I know where both were coming from, plus the second line was kind of funny and probably something that I myself would say – if I wasn’t an employee representing the park – which the guy totally was.

It was definitely a simple example about how young and inexperienced a lot of the park’s employees really are because there’s no way a Disney cast member would ever get away with talking to a guest like that. They’ve got standard blurbs like, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but the safety of our guests is our number one priority, so right now we just need to get everyone off the slide…” or whatever. You don’t remind the guest how much it would suck if they got fried for not taking the lightning seriously!!!

It also didn’t help that they clearly didn’t have a good process in place for clearing out the queue. At first they were going to let those at the very top ride down, then they made even those four get out of the water at the top. Myself and a couple of others asked if we could leave our tubes at the top instead of having to carry them back down again and it was no problem, but nobody offered the same to the rest of the line so instead of people handing their tubes up and then walking down, it took twice as long with people tripping over their tubes and grumbling the whole way.

Two Last Water Park Critiques
These are pretty simple, but #1 – they don’t have showers in the changing rooms, so even though you’re expected to continue your fun day in Legoland proper, there’s really no place to wash off the chlorine after you’re done.

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And #2 … maybe this was kind of my fault because I wasn’t 100% honest with the employees I ran into, but after changing I wanted to go back and get a couple of photos of the water areas … you’ll notice that there really aren’t any photos here except for a few right around the entrance. Well, in crossing over the bridge I ran into an employee asking if I needed anything. Instead of telling him I wanted to take some quick pictures, I told him I was looking for somebody, to which he quite bluntly replied that this end of the park was clear and nobody was left, so anyone I’d be looking for would be in the other direction.

Granted, I shouldn’t have lied and maybe I’d have gotten a better response, but it still just seemed pretty rude and not the kind of treatment that I’m used to at theme parks. We encountered a few different employees who acted like this throughout our visit – like they had a job to do with little regard for the guests who actually made their job needed in the first place.

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So Back in the Main Park…
We’re  making our way back to the front because it’s clearly about to start storming and the park is about to close anyways. We made a few stops along the way to get some pictures of Christopher with the various Lego models, and by far the most disappointing part of my visit was that I couldn’t help but notice that the models are starting to look VERY OLD AND WORN. I got this impression even on our way through with some of the first ones we’d past and even throughout Miniland, but by now it was clear as day. Most of them were dirty and hadn’t been cleaned recently, and so many of them were badly sun-damaged … it’s like they’d gone from looking professional from our last trip to looking like something a kid had built and left out in the backyard this time around.

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It was very embarrassing and proved to be a sizable nail in the coffin for me… 🙁

One Saving Grace, a la Curiosity!
By the time we’d reached the front, thunder struck and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the big gift shop … at one point the employees were encouraging people to just stay put instead of trying to walk to the parking lot in the thunder & lightning, which I thought was nice … albeit ironic because they were also selling ponchos and umbrellas, which we had just bought thinking we were going to make a run for it.

Nonetheless, as I’m going to checkout with a small handful of goodies … noting that Lego VIP still isn’t honored there, just like I found last time … and all of a sudden I notice a small display of Lego Cuusoo sets (now Lego Ideas) behind the cashier, including the new Ghostbusters Ecto-1, but more importantly, the set that I’ve wanted to get ever since it’s been sold out everywhere … the Mars Rover, Curiosity!

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I actually asked the cashier, “Are those for sale???” to which he gave me kind of a weird look as he said yes. I ended up buying both of the ones that they had (they had a posted limit of 5/customer, but only two in the display), and was surprised/grateful to find that they were marked for their original $29.99 sale price and not the double or triple that I’ve been seeing them going for on eBay ever since they sold out. 😯

So In Review…

  • I’m sad to say, but this was a pretty disappointing trip … not from a fun perspective, but more from a standards/should I bring people here again perspective.
  • Their employees desperately need some training as far as interacting with guests on multiple levels. This felt like a park run by a bunch of kids out of school, which a lot of Disney World is, too, but the cast members there would’ve never acted the way I saw cast members act at Legoland yesterday. They were rude, they weren’t helpful, and only a couple actually made our experience positive rather than negative.
  • And granted, a lot of this comparison is with Disney because that’s the market Legoland is in now. Sorry, but if you’re going to charge as much as the big guys, you’re going to get graded like the big guys and standard park admission to Legoland Florida by itself at the gate is now $84/day for an adult. SeaWorld is $80, Universal is $96, and Disney is $94-$99 for a single day. It’s not a “new” park anymore and these are the types of details that determine the parks that I want to frequent and which ones I avoid.
  • I’m really curious now to go back and look at the Lego models along the store at Downtown Disney to see how those have aged because although I don’t remember them being nearly this bad, I’m curious.
  • That said, whereas in my first trip I was clearly wow’ed by all of the models and Miniland as a long-time Lego fan, aside from the new Star Wars section (which is much newer than everything else), I wasn’t anywhere near as blown away, and I don’t necessarily think that it was because I’d seen it all before as much as because so much of it now just looked plain trashy to me. Anything with white in it almost looked yellow and there were clearly all sorts of different tones of the same bricks in models that were supposed to be solid colors. I remember reading once that the other Legoland parks cleaned their models by actually sandblasting a thin layer of plastic off of the models every so often so that the colors would remain bright and consistent, and then essentially when they ran out of model to sandblast, it was time to replace it altogether. Are they doing that sort of thing at Legoland Florida or does just nobody care???

…because the thing is, two years ago when I visited Legoland, while I wasn’t ready to rush back myself the next day, I would’ve been more than happy to return with any fellow Lego fanatics who happened to be in town to visit. Now? There are a lot of caveats that I’d need to throw out that I didn’t feel obligated to before, to the point where I think I’d rather spring the difference to just take them to Disney World instead of going here and potentially being let down. Which sucks because the park is filled with possibilities, but if Merlin Entertainment isn’t going to execute on them the way that Lego deserves, then it makes me wonder if the place is even going to be around in another 10 years or if it’s going to go the way of Cypress Gardens and just eventually fade into broken down obscurity.

As it stands today, Legoland Florida is overpriced at the gate prices it charges for the quality it delivers through the turnstiles. I would argue that even the park itself realizes this – when we were coming in, the people at the gates were reminding guests of their Buy 3, Get 4 Tickets Free promotion to get people to bring their friends back with them. Apparently the deal only applied to people who paid full price and most didn’t, but in a way you can learn about a park’s true popularity by the types of discounts it offers. Let’s face it – Legoland is constantly offering discounted pricing … we ended up going on a corporate rate that was buy 1, get 1 and made our admission about $50/adult, and you can still get buy 1 adult, get a child free publicly today. That tells me that Legoland’s standard pricing in general is too high if they have to consistently offer such deep discounts to get people in the door … as compared to Disney that offers very slight discounts unless you’re buying multi-day tickets as a Florida resident.

And back to the water park admission, consider that we basically stayed there the entire time, we essentially paid $50/day to solely visit the water park, whereas $53 gets you into Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach for longer hours and more park to enjoy. Sure, we paid it this time because that’s where everyone was going, but the next time when we’re asked where we want to spend the day???

So much potential, but so much sorely needing improvement that it really shouldn’t this early into its life cycle … it’s almost enough to make me worried about what I’m going to find in another couple of years when Christopher gets a little older and actually starts playing with Legos himself. I really hope they get their act together by then because I want his first trip then to be as fun and exciting and awesome as my first trip was, but they’re not there right now… 🙁

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I’m not gonna lie – I honestly don’t really even put down the top in my convertible anymore … not even during the summer, save for those super hot days when it becomes painfully aware that I still haven’t fixed my stupid air conditioner. But otherwise it’s kind of a pain, and my hair gets all messed up and I end up looking like one of those troll dolls by the time I reach my destination, and this post just turned into my own little first world problem…

But nonetheless, every now and then around this time of year – even though it isn’t particularly hot out – I like to suck it up and put it down and just drive around with the top down because I can, because when it comes to weather, I’m the kind of guy who loves to gloat, and because people up north have been complaining about snow all week long!

I might miss the snow for about an hour and a half on Christmas morning, but on nights like tonight, I’ll take another 69 degree Christmas in Florida any time… 😀

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Happy Birthday to Legoland Florida!!!

October 15, 2012 3:30pm
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Nice little video from Orlando Attractions Magazine with all of the highlights from Legoland Florida as today they celebrate the park’s first birthday. In addition to half-price admission, they also had free cupcakes, giveaways including annual and lifetime passes throughout the day, and apparently a 26,500 brick birthday cake that I’m sure must’ve been quite the sight to see!

Kinda makes me a little anxious to go back the next time we have some guests visiting from out of town… 😉

Stormfront, Meh

August 26, 2012 9:29pm
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It’s funny how after living someplace for a while, you sorta get complacent about things like the weather when there’s a storm brewing that could potentially blow your recently purchased and hopefully adequately insured new house halfway across town…

😕

It’s kinda crazy to actually sit back and do the math, but I guess I’ve technically been living here in Florida for 9 years now – nearly a third of my life! – so much in the same way that up in Michigan when “the blizzard of all blizzards” was coming in off Lake Michigan and we simply shrugged it off as an excuse to try out our new shovels, now here in the middle of “hurricane season” I find myself not so much scrambling around for canned goods and batteries as do wishing that I’d have taken Cleo out for her walk before it started to torrential downpour that will likely last for the next week and a half!

I honestly don’t think that Isaac is going to have much impact on us here in the Tampa Bay area at all, aside from some rain and wind, anyways.

I will admit that I do find it a little amusing that threat of the storm may upset the Republican National Convention that’s taken over downtown for the next week … hey, at the very least those guys deserve to get a little inconvenienced after the floods of ridiculous bullshit coming from their own mouths that we have to wade through the rest of the year!

FINALLY Splurging for SunPass!

July 16, 2012 10:10pm
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So I finally did it – I finally, after living in Florida for 9 years, broke down and ordered one of the transponders for our electronic toll system.

We honestly rarely ever use toll roads – maybe at random if we’re wandering around and want to go the short way to the beach that we like or one of the preferred movie theaters in the area, but on a day to day basis, neither my wife or I ever have to worry about paying tolls … which is probably why we’ve never bothered to actually pick up a SunPass earlier! We’ve talked about it a lot, but just never followed through, or when we would’ve, we didn’t have the cash handy, or whatever…

I suppose that finally changed this week when I found myself doing this not once, but twice!

This morning I had to take my in-laws back to the airport over on the other side of Orlando, and I ended up taking one of the toll roads that loops around the city to avoid rush hour traffic on I-4, and let’s just say that I almost made it back without running out of cash! Good grief, that road is expensive – I probably spent $10 on 45 miles of road from the airport back to the public freeway … I ended up a dollar short at the last toll plaza before I was done, and it was almost comical watching the lady actually write me out a bill for $1 that I would have to mail back in when I got home.

Tongue in cheek, I made the comment that if I could just pay at the booth with my credit card, it’d be a lot easier, to which she replied, “If you could pay at the booth with your credit card, we’d all be out of a job…”

Not sure what “all” she was referring to – she was the only lane that was left open and the rest had all been converted to SunPass or coin-only lanes anyways!

Moral of the story is – as long as I avoid tolls for another few days until that transponder gets here, I shouldn’t have to worry about this little pet peeve anymore… 😉

This was a nice update to see on a rather ugly story to come out of Miami a couple of weeks ago – basically, a lifeguard left his designated section of the beach to save a drowning man nearby and then got fired because he left the area that his employer was legally responsible for. A couple of his fellow lifeguards ended up quitting beside him in solidarity, and there has been a lot of negative press about it afterwards, as rightfully so.

So in comes Legoland General Manager Adrian Jones, who sees an opportunity to turn a negative thing into something positive for his park, and posts an open letter to the hero and his fellow lifeguards who quit, offering them all jobs to come and work for Legoland’s new water park instead!  😀

Brilliant move on his part – that’s exactly the kind of person who I’d want looking out for my guests, too!

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