Friday, May 28, 2010

And Now For Something Useful

Disney World has finally updated its online dining tool.  It is considerably more user friendly, and you can now see a list of all of your ADRs in one place.  Previously, you could only see a list of the ones you made in that session.  I'm guessing that like us, many of you make multiple ADRs in different sessions.  Now you can get a list of them altogether.

Another bit of encouraging news which pertains mainly to us but may also encourage many of you: even though a significant number of people make their ADRs right at 180 days, you can still get reservations for the places you want to eat at closer to your trip.  When we booked our trip a few months back, we were already in the 180 day period and yet with the exception of one restaurant, were able to get every ADR we wanted at the time we wanted.  This included CRT which I made two separate reservations for.  Both of which I've now cancelled but the point was, this formerly hard-to-get ADR was wide open on two separate days.  The only place we wanted to eat at and had difficulty scheduling was 'Ohana.  We did get it but at an inconvenient time (NOAlgore'sInconvenientTruth).  Yet, just today, while playing around with the new online dining deal, I was able to secure 'Ohana at the time we wanted.  Huzzah!

Lastly a word about changing flight times.  Until a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought this was information which needed to be passed on, but then I ran into someone who didn't know you don't have to pay activation charges when you get a new cell phone or sign up for new service.  If before you sign up you tell them you will not pay the charge, they will waive it.  I thought everyone knew that but apparently not everyone does.  If you didn't, now you do.

Now here's my flight change story: we're flying Delta Airlines. They love to change flight times and it shows. Their "policy" is if the flight change causes you to arrive or depart at least an hour later than originally ticketed, they'll change your flights one time for no charge. Their policy is silent about leaving earlier.  We are scheduled to fly home from Orlando at 7:00 in the am.  Don't ask me why, but that's what we booked.  One assumes there was a good reason I picked that flight.

I have been regretting it ever since and contemplating eating a change of flight fee to move us to later flights.  Only Delta now charges a whopping $150 per ticket to change.  For the ZZUBs, that's $600 ducks to avoid a minor inconvenience.  No dice.  But as I was looking at our itinerary, I observed that Delta had changed our flight and we were now leaving at 6:15!  In the freakin' am!!!!  The website said I might be able to change our flights without cost under certain conditions (see above).  Since the "policy" was silent on early departures, I clicked around and picked out a later flight to see what it would cost.  Adding in the change of flight fee with the cost difference in the new flights, it was a little over $2,000 to leave later.  I threw up on my desk.  Looked at the screen again to confirm it was correct and threw up a 2d and 3d time. The 4th time it was just dry heaves.

Undeterred, I called Delta.  The woman I spoke with politely changed our flights without any cost at all.  I didn't have to even go all ZZUB on her.  She just said, "of course there's no charge since we altered your itinerary."  Funny.  Evidently the "policy" only applies to the website.

So: if you find yourself in the situation where your flights have been changed.  Don't fret none.  Just pick up the phone and give them a call.  You might be surprised at what happens.

All of which makes me wonder what tips y'all possess that you're willing to pass along.  Don't assume we all know them b/c like the cell phone activation charge, not everyone does know it.  The only caveats are these: I'm looking for genuine tips not funny ones, and let's avoid anything to do with parking, pool hopping, refillable mugs and room occupancy.  For the obvious reasons.


Have a nice Memorial Day. Please pause on Monday to remember our servicemen and women and pray for them and their families.  They have sacrificed much for our freedom.  Let's especially consider those who, as Lincoln said, "gave the last full measure of devotion."  God bless their memories.  God bless their families.

God bless the USA.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Magic Power

I don't know who invented the iPod, but the value of the iPod, the real value of it for me is the way it ignites my inner ZZUB.  I've got a bunch of great songs downloaded to it.  Songs that are new.  Songs that lift my soul.  Disney songs for when I need a li'l vacation.  Country songs.  And songs from way back yonder. That make me feel young again.

When I hop on the eliptical at home, I usually watch TV.  I've got a TV opposite the eliptical so I can watch a show while I work out.  But because I've got the shortest attention span imaginable, it helps me to watch a show without commercials.  Which is why I've got a DVD player there, too. And this also helps explain why you're getting bombarded with West Wing quotes. It's a good show for me to watch while elipticalling.  No, it's not a word.  But it should be.

But when I'm on the road, as I was this past weekend, obviously, I can't follow my normal drill so I have to find a new way to occupy my mind as I elipticalise.  The hotel we were staying at had a really nice fitness room and my first morning there anyway, I had the place to myself.  I had my iPhone, my earplugs and a playlist to keep me distracted from the sheer boredom of the eliptical. 

I started out with my new favorite song, the Rockafeller Skank.  Yeah, that's right.  ZZUB's got some Fatboy Slim on his iPhone.  The ZZUB's so brotha.  I freakin' love that song!  In fact, it's my new ringtone.  If that song don't make you want to get up and sweat, well nothing will.  A few songs into my playlist is Triumph's Magic Power.  "I'm young now, I'm wild now, I'm born to be free."  You know the song.  And if you don't then you were born in the wrong decade.

The machine was facing a set of glass doors which looked out across a fancy, shmancy LA hotel plaza and over the hedges, between some buildings, I could see into the distance.

And into the past.

Running (if we can call it that) on the eliptical, staring through the glass doors, off into the distance, I could see myself back in the summer of the waning days of my early life.  Driving home late at night.  The windows open.  The roof open.  The cool, humid night in Ft. Lauderdale.  It was the summer of '88 and I was back at home.  Working two jobs.  Working harder than I'd ever worked before.  But loving it just the same.  All my friends were home that summer.  Indeed, 1988 was the last summer we all came home.  Sometime the previous Fall, I'd signed up with Columbia House and ordered 12 tapes for cheap.  And  because I liked Magic Power, I included Triumph in my order.

Do you remember buying an entire album for one song?

Back when I was 20, I loved driving home.  From anywhere.  We lived out west of town and the ride home was always a good 15 or 20 minutes.  I hated that drive when I was on my way someplace.  Hated it when I had to be home by a certain time.  But when I was coming home from a date, or hanging with my friends, or even from work. Man, that was sweet.  The air.  The music.

Back on the eliptical, I was listening to my soundtrack and I could at once see myself in the distance and yet feel it all over again.  The gear shift in my hand.  The yellow glow of the street lights. The sound the tape deck made when it clicked from one side to the next.  My arm on the door, my wrist resting on the top of the wheel.  The feel of Ft. Lauderdale at night.  On my face.  In my hair.  On my arm.

I remember liking that time.  The loud music and the night air.  The freedom of driving on an isolated road.  Even at 20, I knew I was living one of the greatest times in my life. I remember feeling young.  And knowing I was free.

I'm not saying I want to be 20 again.  I'm perfectly content being my age.  I guess I'm saying that although I'm 42, I don't think of myself as 42.  You know, in my head, I'm still about 21 years old. I'm young, thick of hair and an entire life in front of me. Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I'm surprised by the guy I see staring back at me. He's older than I am. Mature lines on his face. His hair is thinner. He's got a touch of grey.

It occurs to me that I get on the danged eliptical to try to keep myself in some semblance of shape.  So that maybe when I look at myself in the mirror, I'm not so surprised by the guy I see there. But when I put on my earphones and jack into my iPod, I get to visit a sweet time in my little life. When I was young and had nowhere to go.

So what I'm saying is, not only did I go to LA this past week.  I also went back to Ft. Lauderdale. 

And I had a really nice time there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just a Simple Guy

Summertime is my time.  I like the sunshine.  I like the warm weather.  I like the longer days.  I like shorts and flippies.  I like ice-cream.  Hamburgers.  Twizzlers.  Driving with the roof open on my car.  Daydreaming about what's coming at the end of our summer.

I'm a simple guy.  And yes, I'm aware that dreaming of a trip to an over-priced resort, to stay in an over-priced room and eat over-priced food is hardly the things of simple folks. But it's a sliding scale.

I make too much money for the government to give me "free" health care.

Here where I live, summertime arrives later than where some of you live (I'm looking right at you NicoleMarie!).  And mid 70's is hardly the Florida hot we'll experience in a just a few weeks.  But after months and months of cold rain, sweaters and long pants, it's awesome to break out the big boy shorts and flippies.  We had about as perfect a Friday night as you can have last night.  We sat on our porch, watched the tall trees shift and move, ate ice-cream cones and let the girls run wild. 

My girls like to run.  Little ZZUB likes to chase after ZZUBY doing everything she does.  Saying everything she says.  Even if the context don't make a lick of sense (NOMel). She'll randomly remind her, "You're not the parent."  Don't know where she heard that one. Last night, her phrase du jour was, "by the way."  She said it at the end of every sentence, by the way.  Li'l ZZUB is a mess.

Anyway, we're now in "summer mode."  Even though ZZUBY has close to another month of school and it'll probably turn cold again 15 minutes from now.  Because that's how it rolls out here where people are too dumb to realize the whole country is swinging back to the Republican party (Hi Massachusetts!  Hi New Jersey!). Still, we like to look forward to what's ahead.  And that means we've busted out our trip video from two years ago.

At the end of every trip, I'll create a DVD of our trip.  I make a slide show of our pictures and set it to music.  Then I include several of our videos.  The slide show from our last trip to Disney World included both still pictures and video.  One of my favorite parts of the slide show (and indeed that whole trip) was shot in the lobby of the Country Bear Jamboree.

The place was empty when we went inside and the girls were just kind of running and skipping around the place.  ZZUBY was trying out some of her gymnastics on the brass bar and Li'l ZZUB was trying to do so as well.  Back then, Li'l ZZUB called her sister, "Diddy," which roughly translated into Sissy.  They were having themselves a time and I remember enjoying myself too.  Watching the slide show again I remembered how fun that 10 minutes was.  I think I even wrote about it in my last TR although I can't be bothered now to re-read it to find out.

The girls had fun running around two other times during that trip.  Once in the lobby of the Grand Floridian (they were mostly dancing there) and once on the 4th floor of the CR (NOCourtneyandRyan [does anyone know if they're still hot?]).  We have hilarious video of country come to town at the GF.  That was an especially fun night for us.

I had a point when I began rambling so many paragraphs ago. I think it was this: one of the things I'm looking forward to is those unplanned moments of carefree joy.  When ZZUBY and Li'l Z make their own fun.  Wherever we are.  And no, we don't have to go to Disney World for that to happen.  By my own account, they did that just last night in our front yard.

It's just more fun at Disney World.  More expensive, too.

But if I don't spend it, President Obama will.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Day

America is a wonderful place.  In America, clearly unqualified people can rise to positions of power (Hello: Eleana Kagan, I'm looking right at ya') and come close to finding themselves on the Supreme Court.  God forbid a million times (admit it, you've missed that).

In America, a college football team can resurrect itself after 17 years of wandering in the desert and claim the National Championship after vanquishing that great pretender, the University of Florida in the BEST FOOTBALL GAME EVER PLAYED.  A game so intense, mind you, that it sent Urban Meyer to the hospital with heart palpitations.  Thus causing Bama fans nationwide to experience schadenmeyerfreude.

In America, a man can be elected president on the basis of his so-called charm and a fawning media who abjectly refused to acknowledge any of his weaknesses and liabilities. He can sweep into office with stratospheric approval ratings and then watch them come crashing down in record time.

In America, it must really disturb the majority party that their man had lower approval ratings than the devil himself, George W. Bush, at the same point in his presidency (pre- 9/11, after which his ratings soared until the ill-advised decision to invade Iraq).  It is unfathomable that a man the media claimed "stole" the election, a man who couldn't pronounce the word "nuclear," (or many other polysyllabic words for that matter) somehow managed higher approval ratings in the first 8 months of his term than the man Keith Olberman has a seething man-crush on.

In America, a man like Al Gore can make untold millions of dollars claiming the sky is falling all the while hoping no one notices that he's making untold millions of dollars by creating fear of the falling sky. It's precious how Mr. Gore lectures us that if we deny anthropogenic global warming exists, we are denying science.   This is especially curious in the face of the growing body of evidence that suggests scientists themselves have been cooking the books and eschewing scientific principles in favor of a desired result.

Good night nurse, I've gone numb!

In America, the annoyingly perky and surprisingly superficial former governor from the state of Alaska can attempt to keep herself relevant by posting daily to Facebook.  Can it be that not all evangelical Christians think Sarah Palin would be good for America?  You betcha!

In America, people are still arguing on message boards over whether you can use your refillable mugs at Disney resort hotels. 

In America, Chris Rock can make fun of how dumb George W. Bush allegedly is. Even though Chris Rock can't pronounce the word, "ask."

In America, Lindsay Lohan can play a porn star in an upcoming movie.  Making many people question why that was news.  Or even new.

Yes, for all its faults, America is still a great country.

Waaaaaaaaay  better than Canada!  I hear the bathrooms there smell exceptionally bad.

That's a brief snapshot of what's gone on in the last year.

I'm back for a spell.  If you're interested.  The ZZUBs are headed to WDW this summer. Chances are there'll be a trip report posted here when it's all done.  Chances are it'll last for several months.  Until then, I'm likely to spill out several blog posts about everything and nothing.  Also, we haven't been to WDW in two years and so I'm going to need some input from my Disney peeps.

That is, if we can pull them away from the Cartographers for Social Equality meetings.