Friday, July 31, 2009

Fourth of July (and a lot more) trip report from the Disneyland Resort

So it's no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I spend a lot of time at the Disneyland Resort (which I usually just refer to as "the resort" since it's not just Disneyland now, it's DCA [Disney's California Adventure] and DTD [Downtown Disney]). The husband and I generally average a visit every other week, and the visit can range in duration from just a couple of hours to a much longer day. But then there are the occasions when we spend A LOT of time there.

First, to explain a bit, I feel very comfortable at the resort. I know where stuff is, I know what I like to do given various circumstances like crowds and how I feel and if something particular is going on. Our visits to the resort are generally fairly easy-going. We might have particular reasons for going on specific days, but it's not a tourist kind of thing. We visit often enough that there's no need for the panic, no feeling that you have to get the most of your time there because of the day-ticket you've purchased.

But, even with how much the resort feels like home, there are still the occasions that arise that make me feel just as excited to go and be there as any first-time tourist.

For the past multiple years (probably 10 years or so now?), the husband and I have spent the Fourth of July at Disneyland. Yeah, I know, some people think we're crazy for doing that, but we enjoy it. Disneyland does great fireworks anyway, but their Fourth show is even more amazing. It's generally very crowded, so we don't do rides at all, and we know how to navigate our way through the park to avoid the most crowded conditions.

In the early years, when it was crowded enough that there was a danger of Disneyland hitting capacity and not allowing entrance to new visitors or even people who'd already been in the park and had left for a time, we spent ALL DAY in Disneyland, usually trying to find some out-of-the-way place to hang out for much of the day. In the years following, the crowds weren't quite as bad, so in the afternoon, we'd go hang out in an out-of-the-way place at the Disneyland Hotel in the afternoon, where they have air conditioning and comfy chairs, and then go back into DL around dinnertime.

In recent years, with the rise of DTD, we've been going to a movie at the AMC Theatres in the afternoon. This year, though, we weren't sure what we were going to do. Fourth of July this year was on a Saturday, which tends to be the worst condition for crowds. In addition, the resort has been *very* busy in recent months, partly due to the free-on-your-birthday promotion this year as well as the regular locals promotion and the new monthly payment option for annual passes offered to locals as well. We were concerned that all of those factors would result in DL being super busy, and leaving in the afternoon might be a dangerous thing to do if there was a chance we might not get back in. And as if that wasn't enough, Disneyland was planning an even more spectacular fireworks show for the holiday. But wait - there's more! Last year, they had the regular fireworks show and had gotten a bit into the special Fourth show when the winds got too strong for the fireworks to safely continue, so we never saw the entire show. This year, to hopefully avoid that, Disneyland had decided to run a special fireworks show over the four nights surrounding the holiday. Not just a special section after the regular fireworks - an entirely different show just for the holiday.

Since the Fourth was on a Saturday, I had Friday the 3rd off as a company holiday, and I was also let go early on Thursday the 2nd. The 2nd was the first night of the special holiday fireworks, and I really wanted to see them, so I left work around 3pm and then headed down to the resort. There had been some talk that it was expected to be very busy that night because it was the last night that the second level of APs could still go before they were blocked out for the rest of the weekend, so I was surprised that there was no line at the parking structure.

After I parked, I made my way over to the Grand Californian Hotel and the Napa Rose restaurant to check on a reservation I had called in for a couple months down the road. As I stood there perusing the menu for the Vintner's Table (yeah, I always do that, just for the heck of it), I vaguely noticed a woman had come into the restaurant, and she was talking to the host staff. I heard her say that she knew she was really dressed inappropriately and she was sorry but she just wanted to ask a question. I figured she meant that she didn't feel she was dressed up enough, but it was at that point that I noticed she was wearing a bathrobe. I figured out that she was a guest at the hotel and was wearing a hotel bathrobe and must be going back to her room from the pool. Turns out her husband and kids were waiting outside, and she was just checking on the availability of a table for later, and they ended up being able to accommodate her and her family.

After that, I wandered through the World of Disney for a bit, and I noticed that they had a new antenna topper, Mickey dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. It was so cute, and I especially loved his little feet!

I then met up with the husband, who had just gotten off work, and we decided to go on the Nemo subs for a rare daytime ride. We then had dinner in the park, and about 45 minutes before the fireworks, we made our way to the front of our preferred section on Main Street. On the Fourth of July, we normally watch the fireworks from in front of it's a small world because it's much less crowded there and Main Street is normally a nightmare. That was the other reason for visiting on this night - we'd be able to see the show from Main Street without quite the hassle of the Fourth. I was concerned, though, because it was really windy, which meant there would be a chance the fireworks would be cancelled. But normally, they'll play an announcement cautioning that the fireworks could be cancelled because of weather conditions, and they never played that announcement at all. As it turned out, it was windy during the entire show, but it was just windy on the ground - up in the sky where the fireworks were, there was hardly any wind at all, with the smoke from the fireworks pretty much just sitting there.

OMG. The fireworks were AWE.SOME. It wasn't the same show as any of the ones they'd done in previous years. It was an entirely new show, with one section that particularly pleased the husband and myself because it reminded us of Rod Miller, a former Main Street piano player who retired several years ago. The show was very Main Street-centric, so I was glad we were able to see it from there. We would have missed a lot if we'd just seen it from it's a small world.

I liked the show so much that there was a tiny little part of me that considered going again Friday night, but it was a thought I just kept to myself. We already had plans for the entire afternoon, so we'd have already had a full day.

And then, as it turned out, one of our friends who had planned to be at Disneyland on the Fourth had a change of plans and wouldn't be able to come, so she decided to go down on Friday instead so she could see the fireworks. OK, that sealed it - I wanted to go too. I mean, she needed company, right? Yeah, that was my excuse anyway.

We had a great time in the afternoon with our plans and pretty much got home in time just to change and head out again. We met up with friends, had dinner and then were back on Main Street in pretty much the same spot to wait for the fireworks again. The show was just as good the second time around.

On Saturday, the Fourth of July, we headed down to the resort mid-morning. It hadn't been that crowded on Thursday night or Friday night, so we weren't sure what to expect on Saturday. We figured we'd gauge the crowds and decide how to spend our day and see whether it was safe to leave the park. We were shocked to get to the parking structure and find that there was no line to get in, and then there was no line at the tram that would take us to the front entrance. Where was everyone?

It was seriously not crowded at all, even for a regular weekend day, much less the Fourth of July. We met up with friends and decided it was fine to leave the park, so we had lunch at Catal Restaurant's Uva Bar in DTD.

After lunch, we decided to head into DCA, and as we passed the ticket booths, we were amazed that there were ZERO lines at shortly after 2 in the afternoon.

A wider view picture. The booths are open and CMs are inside with nothing to do.

We wandered around the Pacific Wharf area of DCA and then met up with other friends as we headed to Midway Mania to check out the line. If it was too long, we'd skip it like normal. At about 3:15pm on Saturday, the Fourth of July, the posted wait time was 10 minutes. We really could not believe how uncrowded the resort was. But we definitely took advantage of it.

We eventually headed back to Disneyland to wait for flag retreat, which included the Dapper Dans and the All American College Band.

After that, we wandered around Disneyland for a bit and then it was time for dinner, and we decided to go to Plaza Inn. Some of the friends we were with hadn't seen the fireworks show yet, and they really wanted to see it from Main Street. We decided that since it wasn't nearly as bad as usual, we would brave Main Street as well. Well, all the people who hadn't been at the resort earlier in the day APPARENTLY showed up in the evening. At shortly after 8pm, our normal section on Main Street was already full with people sitting down, so we ended up staking out a section further back. However, because of the expertise of some friends, we eventually ended up making it back to our regular section, a bit behind and to the right of our normal spot. It got more and more crowded as people packed into the space. We had about an hour to wait, and we had a great time amusing ourselves. Yeah, I know, not hard.

It was another great show. There were a couple of extra segments and a different ending from the shows we had seen the prior two nights. After the fireworks, we hid out to the side as seemingly the entire population of California exited the park. There was a third scheduled Fantasmic that night, and we had decided to try to catch that. There was still space at one of our regular spots that has a decent view, but again, because of the expertise of friends, we ended up in a section with a truly awesome view. Unfortunately, the new Croc was a no-show that night, but seeing the new Flotsam and Jetsam from there was pretty spectacular. It was also fairly windy, because even though we were a bit back from the edge of the river, we still got pelted during the water screen sections. I can't imagine how wet the people got who were closer to the river.

After Fantasmic, we headed for a ride on Haunted Mansion, and then we hung out on Main Street for a bit so a friend could renew his pass. As we were on our way out, we ended up running into Rod Miller at Coke Corner! How coincidental was that? It was nice to see him, even though the conversation itself was a bit on the odd side.

Because of a merchandise release on Sunday, we were back at the resort before noon the next day even though we'd been there quite late the night before. It seemed really quiet that day.

We happened to be in the DTD area for shopping, right by the monorail station. We had heard the reports from that morning about the tragic monorail accident that had occurred that morning at Walt Disney World, and we weren't sure if that would affect the Disneyland monorails. The station seemed to be up and running normally for business, and then I saw monorail blue pulling into the station, and there were even people in the nose and tail cones.

We then went into the park and decided to try out the new Harbor Galley for lunch. It's too bad they don't offer an AP discount, and there doesn't seem to be a particular reason for that. The husband had the salmon salad (which he enjoyed), and I had the broccoli cheddar soup in a bread boule, which I really liked.

We sat at a nearby table to enjoy our lunch, and we had a nice view of the river. I joked to the husband that normally, if you hear screaming and a gunshot, you'd call the police. In our case, it just meant we were sitting by Splash Mountain and the Rivers of America.

After lunch, we headed over to Fantasyland to see if we could get a ride on Peter Pan that we'd never gotten around to the night before. The wait time was really good, only 20 minutes, but even with that unusually short wait time, we just didn't feel like it. We'd been at the resort a lot over the past four days, and as much as we love the resort, we'd had our fill and were ready to leave.

As we walked to the tram stop, we noticed that the kiosk vendors in DTD were bored out of their minds since there were no customers coming by.

Our marathon trip to the resort didn't quite end as well as we would have liked. As we were leaving, we took the flyover that crosses over Ball Road, so we were a bit alarmed that there was a car coming in the wrong direction as we were leaving. Luckily, we were in the right lane and the other car was in the left lane. The flyover is usually a single-direction road, but the direction of access changes during the day. The husband said he's seen it used for cars going in both directions, but then, there are cones in the middle between the two lanes to delineate them. When we had gotten to the resort around 12:30, it still looked like it was still usable as an entrance going into the structure since no cones were up, but the overhead lights had "X" and "no entrance" lit up, so we decided not to chance it and didn't take the flyover going in. When we left, the lanes were set up completely as exits from the structure, with the cones and red lights set up to block it as an entrance from the other direction. The car that drove past us must have been driving on the wrong side of the street for a little while to get past the cones that were set up to block off that kind of entry. Seeing that car made us a little nervous about any other cars that could also be coming the wrong way, but luckily, that was the only one. And we didn't hear any kind of noise behind us, so we hoped that meant there was no accident caused by the car going the wrong way.

It wasn't exactly how we wanted our visit to end, but it certainly didn't diminish the fun we'd had over the previous four days.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" - July 29, 2009 episode

So, I realized that I'd been posting these summaries too early, not leaving enough time for the video clips to go up on the site. So, now we're back to having screen capture pictures!

Picking up at the end of last week's show, Dan had just survived the elimination round. Remember the part where I said he was slamming into the wall trying to get the balls up the dragon's nose? Yeah, well, I wasn't kidding. He had a couple of really nasty bruises to show for it, and he was really sore generally too, it seemed.

The next day, the contestants were lounging around at home when the phone rang. Mama-San picked it up, and it was a surprise call from Rome, who told them that the Green Tigers had to pick one member to go over to the Red Robots to even up the teams. The Green Tigers went into seclusion to decide. Smartly enough, they did not in fact send Cathy back over. Both Cathy and Brent expressed the desire for either Linda or Megan to go. Linda said she didn't want to go, so Megan volunteered to switch teams.

Game time!

For the first game, the contestants were dressed in kitty costumes with funny noses and ears, and each also had a big bowl strapped to the top of their head.

Rome went to the Green Tigers' room to see who was being switched over, and he was told it would be Megan. He then opened the door to the Red Robots' room and brought Megan over with him so she could join Dan and Justin. Dan was not at all happy to have Megan on his team because he said she was loud, but Justin was fine with having her - he just didn't know if she'd help their team. Justin and Dan had wanted either Cathy or Brent.

The first game was called "Sour Milk For Kitty". Each of the three team members stood on descending steps that vibrated. The person at the top step had to ladle curdled milk (with chunks and all) into the bowl on his/her head, and then that person had to transfer the contents (pretty much by tipping the head backward) into the bowl of the second person, who then had to transfer the milk to the third person, who then had to get the milk in a bucket. The team with the most milk in the bucket in the allotted time won the game and an advantage for the second game. I was surprised that it was just vibrating steps rather than the spinning discs, but I guess they figured the game was hard enough as it was. The husband also pointed out that with the spinning discs, they'd probably fall off the steps, which would be bad.

The Red Robots went first, with Justin on the top step, Dan in the middle, and Megan at the bottom. Justin and Dan weren't doing very well at coordinating the transfer of milk so Dan was just getting soaked with the sour milk. Ewwwww. Megan was really tall, so she had some difficulty getting the milk from her bowl into the bucket so far below, but she managed to twist herself around quite a bit to accomplish that. The Red Robots were pretty confident in the job they'd done.

The Green Tigers were up next, with Brent at the top, Linda in the middle and Cathy at the bottom. Brent really struggled at first. He was ladling the milk into his bowl, but he didn't seem to realize that he had his head tipped forward, so as he poured in the milk, it just came streaming right back out. Other times, he totally missed and was just basically pouring the milk on his head. The Red Robots were watching this and loving it. Finally, Linda was able to give him directions on what to do since she could see the problem he was having, and he started to get the hang of it, and they were managing to transfer bowlfuls of milk. Cathy also had an easier time getting milk into the bucket because she was shorter, but she also seemed to have mastered a method of flinging her head so that all the milk in her bowl pretty much landed in the bucket.

After both teams had gone, the results were revealed. As in the previous milk challenge, the Green Tigers ended up with about twice as much milk as the Red Robots, so they won the first game.

One thing I did like better about this game was that you couldn't automatically tell how much milk was in the buckets. With the baby bottle game last week, you could see the milk as it accumulated in the bottle, so even before they announced the official results, it was obvious that the Green Tigers had gotten more milk. This time, they did the reveal of the contents of both buckets afterward, so you didn't really know until then who had won.

The contestants then went to get ready for the second game. I wonder if they were given the chance to shower or clean up. I mean, Dan and Brent at least were covered in that sour milk stuff!

Before the second game, Rome introduced Judge Bob to preview the game - and Judge Bob was dressed as Mr. Banana Man! How awesome was that!!!!! (Unfortunately, they didn't have that segment up on the site, so I don't have a screen shot of that. I should be able to get a picture elsewhere at a later time, so I'll try to remember to include that in next week's summary.)

OK, sorry, lost my head there for a minute.

The second game was called "big foot bang bang". Each of the contestants would be dressed as a fruit or a vegetable. Of the three team members, one would be the kicker, and the other two would be the helpers. On the opposing team, one would be the goalie, and the other two would control him/her. The kicker was hanging from a rope/harness, and he/she had his/her feet in a giant shoe. One team member would place oversize balloons on a tee, and the third team member would push the kicker to kick the balloon into a goal net. Meanwhile, the other team would have a goalie hanging in the front, dressed in a cactus costume. He/she could sort of wave his/her arms around, and the other two team members were on opposite sides of the goal with a pulley system to move the goalie across the front of the goal. Their job was to block the balloons, and the cactus costume had prickly stuff that would pop the balloons upon contact. The goalie really couldn't move much and could really just wave his/her arms a bit. The team with the most goals in the allotted time was the winner.

The Red Robots went first, with Justin in a costume of grapes (and he very much enjoyed playing with two particular grapes that were strategically placed on his chest), Dan was dressed as an apple, and Megan was the kicker, dressed as a carrot. For the Green Tigers, Linda was the goalie in the cactus suit. The Red Robots had a hard time at first, and balloons went everywhere, including one that went squarely into Judge Bob. However, they soon learned the hang of it, and they managed to score two goals before the Green Tigers also got the hang of the defense. Brent and Cathy did a good job of yanking Linda back and forth to block and pop the balloons. The Red Robots ended up with a total of two goals.

For the Green Tigers, Linda was dressed in the grapes, Brent was dressed as an apple, and Cathy was the kicker dressed as a carrot. She made some comment about having been a soccer coach or something, so she was really looking forward to this. For the Red Robots, Dan was the cactus goalie, with Megan and Justin pulling.

Green Tigers ready for action.

Red Robots on the defense.

Since the Green Tigers had won the first game, they had won an advantage - which was one free kick. So, Dan was moved to the side, and the Green Tigers got their free kick - and the balloon went right into Dan's suit and popped. Justin's interview had him making fun of them for failing at the free kick. And then when the game actually started, the Green Tigers got goals from their first 4 (or more) balloons. The Green Tigers kicked the Red Robots' asses. Badly. Severely. Cathy was making goals left and right, literally, and Justin and Megan were completely failing at being able to move Dan around to block anything. Justin was mad because he thought the Green Tigers were rubbing it in, and Cathy was of the attitude that they were going to be in their faces with this win. The Green Tigers scored a total of 12 goals to win the game.

And after the Green Tigers' third goal, I wondered why they didn't stop the game. And I kept wondering that every time they scored another goal and were allowed to keep attempting more goals. As I recall, every other time where the second team or contestant knew what they needed to win, they stopped once they reached that point. Once the Green Tigers had gotten their third goal, the game was over. It didn't matter if they scored 3 or 400 - they still won. Rome made some comment about there being no mercy rule, but I would swear they didn't previously just let them go on. It was like they were just allowing the Green Tigers to humiliate the Red Robots. It was just weird.

Cathy's winning streak remained unbroken, and Megan was worried that she'd be in the elimination game.

For winning, the Green Tigers' reward was to attend a Samurai festival. The next morning, Mama-San dressed each of them in an outfit called a hakama. Justin saw them and commented (to the camera, not to them) that Brent looked even more like Whoopi Goldberg when he was wearing a dress. His obnoxious comments are really getting on my nerves. Wasn't he supposed to be the mastermind or something? Not doing great on your losing team, dude.

The Green Tigers were then taken to where a group of Samurai were, and they watched them demonstrate fighting with swords up close and personal. They were then given their own lesson in learning sword movements, and then they were dressed up in armor and were able to participate in a parade through the streets where they were able to demonstrate their new skills. They loved this experience. I think this has been the coolest reward so far. Hmmm, Cathy's gotten all of the rewards they've had. Wonder which one was her favorite so far?

For the Red Robots, losing again meant another punishment. Their task was to turn bamboo into chopsticks. They started off having to harvest these gigantic bamboo trees. They were massively tall and thick - I had no idea bamboo could grow like that. They had to cut them down and then chop off the smaller branches and then carry the huge bamboo stalks. Because of the hard work, Justin made some derogatory remark about why they needed chopsticks anyway and hadn't they ever heard of forks. Dude. Shut.Up. After that, they had to saw them all into smaller sections and then split them into smaller pieces and then were shown how to basically whittle/carve chopsticks from the bamboo. They were told they had to make 50 chopsticks. Dan ended up doing pretty well, but Justin sucked at it and then, appropriately enough, given the sour milk challenge and his grapes outfit in the second challenge, he expressed sour grapes about how he was ok letting Dan be good at making chopsticks because it didn't matter to him. W.

Dan, Megan, Justin and bamboo harvester dude in the bamboo forest, in the midst of trying to cut down one of the giant bamboo stalks.

Megan struggling with carrying a huge bamboo tree.

Megan sawing off a section of bamboo.

Justin having difficulty making chopsticks out of bamboo.

It then came time for the elimination game. Dan, Justin and Megan talked about who should be in it, but they couldn't come to an agreement, but that's just what Megan wanted. She wanted a stalemate, knowing that the decision would then go to the Green Tigers, and she figured she'd be saved by them. But should she have been so sure of that?

Rome called the Red Robots out on the stage, and for some reason, he kept referring to Megan as his "edamame". Does she know that he's calling her a soybean? And why is she flirting with him and kissing him? Although Rome did say, in Japanese, that she was his girlfriend. Too funny.

The Red Robots did admit to being unable to come to a decision about who would play in the elimination game, so the Green Tigers were called out to decide for them. And, sure enough, they saved Megan and chose Dan and Justin to play in the elimination game. And they were shown their costumes for the game - velcro suits! Yeah!!!!!! I love this game!!!!!

The game was called "You Look Funny Stuck On Wall" and was the same game used for an elimination last year. Each contestant wore a suit with huge strips of velcro on it. There was an outline on a wall of different shapes that a human body could be in, and the contestant had to jump on a trampoline and try to fit their body exactly into the outline. Whoever got the closest to being in the outline won the round, and the person who won four rounds won the game.

Justin wasn't particularly good at first, but Dan was even worse. He said (again) that he'd been homeschooled and had never been on a trampoline before, so he had a really hard time getting the hang of how it worked. Justin won the first two rounds handily before Dan finally figured it out and won a round. For the third round, Dan went first, and then they left him hanging up there and then went to a commercial! The husband and I laughed at that, and he said he thought they did that to someone last year too. Justin ended up doing really well, and he won that round, making it 3 to 1. On the next round, Justin did well, but he had one leg that was really hanging out, so there was a chance for Dan. All of the other contestants were really rooting for Dan. But Dan tanked it, not even coming close to the outline. Justin won his fourth round and the game.

The Sayonara Mob came in to tear Dan off the wall and carry him out.

I really wanted Justin to lose because he's just getting entirely too obnoxious, and I didn't want to have to listen to him anymore. But, that's not to be yet. I think I'm rooting for either Brent or Cathy. I realized that I can't really tell the difference between Linda and Megan, and they're the only ones where I still have to read the chyron to figure out who it is. But I seriously don't want Justin to win.

I'm sorry to see Dan go. He played well, and he survived two elimination games but got sunk on his third. If there was some way that I could actually say something to him, it would go something like this:

Dan, you seem like a really nice guy, but dude, you really have to stop hiding behind the whole homeschooling thing. You're 25 years old. Unless your mother homeschooled you until very recently, you've had years to learn about the world. Just because you had a conservative, religious upbringing and have a set of morals that you live by doesn't mean that you have to be sheltered and completely unaware of the world out there. A co-worker of mine was homeschooled until high school, and she's definitely not sheltered. You might not have known how to really work a trampoline (I've never been on one either, though I get the intellectual idea of how it works), but that has nothing to do with having been homeschooled. Stop using that as an excuse for things. For goodness sake, you work in a library! There's all kinds of information in there. Reading isn't as good as doing, but at least you can be exposed to a lot of things. And don't just stay in your library - get out and experience the world for real. You don't have to do debaucherous things or anything like that. There are plenty of fun and exciting and interesting things to learn about and experience. There's a great big beautiful tomorrow out there!

OK, sorry, lost my head there again.

Best of luck to you, Dan.

Dan Barbour
Willful yet likable, Dan is a librarian who "has an opinion about everything." Whether the topic is politics, movies or the color of the sky, Dan's the type of guy who "always believes he's right, and everyone else is wrong." But don't let his choir boy looks and tendency to blush fool you. This avid poker player is no pushover, and he's not afraid to manipulate a situation to his advantage. This self professed virgin was home schooled and is the product of a conservative, religious upbringing. He never curses, and his favorite phrase is "Oh my word." He'll be the ultimate fish out of water not only in Japan, but also living with the other Americans.
Age: 25
Hometown: Shrewsbury, MA
Occupation: Librarian

They're down to five contestants left now, so I think it would be time to forego the teams and just have individual contests. The challenge next week with the luggage conveyor belt looks awesome!

Oh, and for anyone out there who might know what happens in future episodes, PLEASE, no spoilers of any kind in the comment section, not even little hints or anything like that. I don't want to know *anything* until I see it on the show. Thanks!

Hai, Majide!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

new Rubik's Cube - now tastier

Remember Rubik's Cube, that toy that was really popular WAAAAAAYYYYYYY back in the 80s? I remember kids were totally obsessed with them, and I think teachers hated them because kids would bring them to school and play with them and totally ignore the class. Teachers would take them away from kids, and I remember one of my teachers had something like 5 or 6 in her drawer at one point.

I liked playing with it, but I sucked at it. I never figured it out, and I'd only be able to solve it by cheating - taking the cube apart and then putting it back together again with the pieces in the right place. Problem was, after you'd taken it apart too many times, it got too loose and so wouldn't stay together anymore, and once you'd put it back together and tried to move any of the rows - the thing would explode apart.

I had one friend, Gilbert, who was great at it. After a while, it took him seconds to do it. And yeah, he got in lots of trouble with teachers.

Anyway, someone has now figured out a much tastier version of that age-old toy.

OK, so it's not that hard to make, and you really can't eat it as a sandwich, but it just looks cool! Here's the link to the page about the "Rubix Cubewich".

The site itself is pretty awesome. I'm going to have to go back sometime and go through all of it. So far, I like The Breakfast Club Sandwich (but you can hold the mayo and brew) and The Giftwich (how can you go wrong with a Reuben?), but I *really* like The Duck N' Roll. Yummy!

The Patty Failburger is just plain funny.

I'm iffy on The Twinkie Torpedo, but I'm really not on board with The All-Mint Patty Burger.

Great site!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

little squat people - new Star Wars toys from Hasbro

So Comic-Con was this past weekend, and of course, Hasbro had a huge presentation about the new Star Wars toys coming out for the rest of the year as well as previews for next year.

Here's an article with a link to the full slideshow, from which the pictures below have been taken.

There are some interesting things coming out, but they're mostly in lines that I don't collect.

In the "little squat people" line, formally known as Galactic Heroes, there aren't too many things coming out that I want. The characters in the paired sets don't really interest me, but a few of the bigger scenes look interesting.

I like the Endor celebration set because it has an Ewok and the ghost figures.

The Slave 1 with Boba Fett is pretty cool, but I really like the Endor attack set. More Ewoks! (Or do I already own some Ewoks? I can never remember.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

magical memories - birthday party for a one-year-old

Today marks the 14th anniversary of my employment with the company I currently work for.

I met Liza when I joined the company. It was a bit of an adjustment, getting used to a new company, where I barely knew anyone in the company and no one in my new department. Most people weren't particularly outgoing to meet the newbie in the department, and I'm not good at that sort of thing myself. Circumstances were such that for the first several weeks, I was in a completely different building than the rest of the department, so it was even a bit more isolating. Liza was the first person to make it a point of saying hello to me and trying to make me feel welcome. I remember one day, I was fairly swamped with work, trying to get up to speed on things. Liza came by and asked if I was going to lunch. I told her that I was really busy, and I'd try to run out and get something later. She told me that she was going to get lunch and if I wanted, she'd bring me back something. At this point, we didn't know each other very well and probably hadn't had much time to talk to each other, so I was really amazed at how nice she was to even make the offer. Over the next few months, we got to know each other better, as she would stop by to chat periodically, and we discovered that we had a lot in common. That's why I was really sad when she came in one day about three months later to tell me that she was moving to the Bay Area because her husband's job had transferred him there. I'd just begun to make a new friend, and it seemed like our friendship wouldn't be going any further.

I was glad that I was able to see Liza and meet her husband on one of my trips to the Bay Area. They were both so incredibly nice to me, and it was so much
fun getting to know both of them better, and they introduced me to a great restaurant (Crustacean), which has a branch in Beverly Hills. The few times that I've been to the Beverly Hills location, I make it a point of telling my dinner companions about the two people who introduced me to such a great place.

They moved to another state shortly thereafter, so we didn't see each other again, though we exchanged Christmas cards and occasional emails. I knew she'd had a hard time getting pregnant because there were various complications, so I was so happy when she told me at one point that she was expecting. Because they still had family in Southern California, they decided to have a first birthday party for their daughter out here, and the husband and I were invited. I was a bit apprehensive about going - this was someone I'd known for only three months many years ago - how would we get along now and what on earth would we talk about? I am so glad we went. It was a fairly large dinner party held in a restaurant in Koreatown, and we had the best time. Though she was busy as hostess, we were able to spend a few minutes here and there catching up, and it was like nothing had changed - we just chatted about everything, one of those friendships where you just immediately pick right up again. I was glad that the husband was able to meet her and her husband. We ended up sitting at a table with her husband's boss and his family, so we had a good time getting to know them as well, and I was also able to spend some time playing with their beautiful and fearless little girl, Sophie.

I was so pleased to see how happy they all were, how much Liza and her husband and their extended family obviously loved and adored Sophie, and what a darling Sophie had already become. I remember at one point near the end of dinner, I was accompanying Sophie as she was puttering around. She was basically holding my fingers to keep herself upright, but she was doing all the steering. We were kind of walking around the restaurant, and then at one point, when she saw Liza, she headed straight for her. I told so many people what a wonderful time I had and how great it was to see all of them.

A couple years later, I came home from work fairly late one February night and decided to check my email before heading off to bed. I could tell from the sender and subject matter of one email that something was not right. Liza's husband had sent me an email, with apologies that it had taken him so long to send the note, but he'd just found a bunch of addresses in her PDA. She died about a month prior as a result of a rare form of cancer. She and I usually exchanged Christmas cards, but I didn't think anything of not having gotten one the previous year. I didn't normally get them Christmas gifts, but for some reason, I'd stumbled on something that I thought they might like, so I'd bought and sent it. I thought it was a bit odd that she hadn't emailed me to let me know that she'd received it, but I just figured she was busy and would get around to it sometime. It never occurred to me that her silence meant something was wrong. She was hospitalized the previous November from a stroke, and that's how they eventually found the cancer. The cancer was extremely aggressive and had already done a lot of damage, and Liza died in January.

Even though it was late, I ran upstairs in tears and woke up the husband, who was alarmed at my disposition, and I told him what had happened. I'm tearing up now thinking about it all again.

It might seem weird that her death hit me like that. Liza definitely held a unique position in my life. I'm not one to lightly use the word "friend" to describe someone, but even though I'd only seen her literally twice in a period of 9 years, and had only occasional email contact, it was a friendship that I can't even find the words to describe.

I also finally realized why the news was even worse in my mind. I had forgotten that her daughter was born early in the year. That means that Liza died shortly after her daughter's third birthday. Sophie was old enough to know that her mom was gone, but not old enough to understand why, and Liza's husband would be raising her alone. It wasn't supposed to be that way. Liza wanted a child, and she went through a lot to have one, and she and her husband were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. They were supposed to have a happy life together, and Liza was going to be there to watch her daughter grow up and guide her through her teenage years and her adult years - Liza was a great mother and would continue to be so as Sophie grew up and needed a mother's helping hand. She wasn't supposed to only have 3 years with Sophie, and Sophie wasn't supposed to lose her mother at the tender age of 3. A lot of people talk about how this thing and that thing is unfair. None of that comes close to touching this. Losing Liza so early was definitely unfair.

At the suggestion of friends, I sent Liza's husband a letter, expressing my condolences and telling him the stories I've included above. I told him that I couldn't imagine what he and Sophie must be going through, but that if there was anything I could do, to let me know. I know, they sound like empty words, but I didn't know what to offer them. What could I possibly do to help, especially with the distance since they lived in another state? He sent back a very nice note, which was very sweet of him. I have kept up exchanging Christmas cards with him, and he's been nice enough to include pictures of her, so I've seen how Sophie has grown. We don't keep in touch otherwise, just the Christmas card once a year. Normally, with that little contact, I probably would have stopped the Christmas cards by now in any other case. But it's my only connection to Liza. This all happened about four years ago. I don't know that I'll ever see Sophie again or even know anything about her, but I'm not ready to give up Liza yet. Sounds silly, doesn't it?

As I recognize that it's my 14th anniversary at my job, I also remember one of the best things that has come out of working there. And that's my friendship with Liza, and the wonderful birthday party for Sophie that we attended. The husband and I took a lot of pictures during the dinner, and we made a webpage out of the pictures so that Liza could share it with whomever she wanted. I later sent the link to her husband, and he said he was going to print everything out for Sophie to see when she got older.

Here's the webpage that we made with pictures of the party. They followed some traditional Korean traditions, which accounts for the table of goodies at the front of the room. Sophie was put down amongst the goodies, and the tradition stated that depending on what she chose to go for, that would determine if she would be blessed more with talent or riches or long life or other good things. I can't remember what it ended up being that she chose or what it meant. And I really don't remember what the last two pictures were about. I think that was Liza's husband's boss, and that was the boss' daughter, and somehow, it turned into a wrapped-like-a-mummy thing. It was pretty funny at the time.

Relatively speaking, Liza occupied a very short time in my life, but I'm never going to forget her.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lawry's The Prime Rib - restaurant review

For the husband's birthday dinner a couple of weeks ago, he chose Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. Some friends have talked about the restaurant for some time, and of course, we've heard about the restaurant in all kinds of news stories and restaurant articles, and we've driven by it numerous times, but neither the husband nor I had ever been, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to pay a visit.

Lawry's is located on busy Restaurant Row on La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills. The husband pulled up, and we left the car with the valet and went inside. The husband checked in with the hostess and told her that we had a reservation, and she asked us to wait in the lounge. The lounge area has a number of sofas, and there's beautiful wood paneling on the walls. They also had a station with some kind of hors d'oeuvres to munch on while you were waiting for your table. We didn't partake, but I think the husband said it was small meatballs and something else, based on what he saw someone else getting. Across the way, we saw the bar, which was also wood-paneled and elegant. Shortly thereafter, our table was ready, and we were led into the dining room.

After we sat down, the husband and I commented that it was odd coming into the dining room - it felt like we were going backwards. The dining room itself wasn't nearly as fancy or elegant as the waiting area. With lion heads on the stairs leading back to the waiting area, it felt like we were going the wrong direction, that we should now be in the more casual waiting area before heading through the lionhead-lined staircase to the more formal, wood-paneled, elegant dining room. I can't say exactly for what reason, but the dining room area actually reminded me a bit of the dining room for The Spaghetti Factory, which I happen to like, but I expected a bit more from a place like Lawry's.

The dining room had a number of booths, but they also had separate sections of tables with booth seating that were situated a bit oddly to me. This is a little hard to describe. We were at the end of one of the sections, and they pulled the table out to let the husband and me into our seats, and then they pushed the table back in front of us. For me to get out, the husband would have had to scoot out and I'd have to scoot over and out. The same would have been true for the couple who were later seated at the table at the other end of our section. But if they had sat anyone in the tables between us and the other couple, the only way for them to have gotten out was to pull their table entirely out, in the middle of the walkway, for them to get out. Or, I suppose they could have crawled under the table, but that would have been odd. In that section of seats, there was no seating on the aisle - everyone sat in booth space. The only aisle seating I saw was a young child in a high chair at a booth near us. We did notice regular tables in another section with regular single chairs.

After we'd been seated, our server came up and introduced herself. I don't remember her name, mostly because I was noticing other things about her: 1) Instead of "Mary" or "Jennifer" or "Christine", she introduced herself as "Miss [lastname]" and her nametag said the same thing. OK, that's different. I've never called a server that way before, and it might have made me think I was back in school except for the next thing I noticed. 2) Her uniform was very much and unmistakeably just like that of a nurse. The design and cut of the bodice, and then the little hat on top - it was definitely an old-style nurse look. OK, so our server was Nurse Ratched. And then later, we noticed that all the servers were women, in their little nurse uniforms, and all the bussers were men, dressed in what looked like orderly uniforms. OK, so when exactly did Lawry's turn into a hospital?

I looked at the menu to decide what to have for dinner. I knew that I'd have some kind of prime rib - I mean, why come to Lawry's and not have prime rib, unless you're a vegetarian or you don't eat red meat? The ordering process was a little weird, because if you ordered anything other than prime rib, then you ordered it with your server, who took the order to the kitchen, but if you wanted prime rib, you ordered that when the prime rib cart came around. And for certain sides, you had to order with the server because it came out of the kitchen, and other sides, they came with the prime rib cart. Both the husband and I ordered "The Lawry Cut - Our traditional and most popular cut" of prime rib and then we ordered a side of asparagus to share, which it turns out came from the kitchen.

Each prime rib meal came with certain accompaniments, including a starter salad, their "Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad", which Nurse Ratched prepared at the table, and when she poured in the salad dressing, she held the container and raised it really high while pouring it. It just reminded me of old-time show, which I guess isn't my thing. Show is nice, as is presentation, but the food is really going to speak for itself. I thought the salad was ok, but I wasn't crazy about the dressing. It had similarities to Thousand Island dressing, which I would have loved back when I used to like Thousand Island dressing, but since I generally prefer Italian vinaigrette nowadays, the dressing was sweeter than I would have preferred.

From Lawry's website, you can see the server making the salad, and you can also see what her uniform looks like. This looks to be a really old picture, and the server's uniforms don't look exactly like that anymore. But the styling is similar. And no, I have no idea why they don't have newer pictures on the website.

The meal also came with Yorkshire Pudding - which I'll admit I didn't know what that was - turns out it was pretty much bread in a little pan. Also included with the meal was mashed potatoes, but I think you can substitute a baked potato for an additional charge. The husband and I both opted for the mashed potatoes. They also had regular horseradish and whipped cream horseradish for the prime rib.

There were a couple prime rib carts making the rounds of the restaurant, and when the closest one arrived at our table, Nurse Ratched came back. She introduced us to the chef with that particular cart, and then she asked me what cut of prime rib I wanted. I told her, and then she repeated it to the chef - who was standing right there and would have heard me, I would have presumed. He cut what I asked for, added the mashed potatoes and then I can't remember if he put the plate on the table in front of me or if she did. She then turned to the husband and did the same thing. I thought it was weird that we didn't really speak directly to the chef - it would have been just as easy to just tell him our order. I don't think the formality of having the server repeat our order to the chef was necessary - it just made it seem like he wasn't really there, or somehow, it wasn't proper for us to speak to him.

From Lawry's website, a picture of a chef with a meat cart. We couldn't figure out what the giant medallion was for that the chefs all had hanging around their necks.

When my plate was put down, I was a surprised at how big a cut it was. It was then that I realized that the menu listed different cuts of prime rib, but not how many ounces each cut was. The prime rib was more than I would have ordered had I known the size - on any future visit, if I was to order prime rib, I'd probably get either "The California Cut - A smaller cut for lighter appetites" or "The English Cut - Three thin slices deftly carved to heighten the rich beef flavor".

From the website, a picture of the prime rib plate, with what looks like creamed spinach added.

After we'd started to enjoy our prime rib, Nurse Ratched came back to check on us, and she noticed there wasn't much au jus on my plate, so she asked if I wanted more. I said yes, and she came back with a gravy boat of jus, so that was very nice. The prime rib was indeed very good, and I actually had it with the horseradish, which I've never done elsewhere before. The mashed potatoes were kind of plain, and I actually quite liked the Yorkshire Pudding, and the asparagus was very good.

I ended up having about half my prime rib, and I took the rest home and had it for lunch a couple of days later. I really liked the prime rib, but I can't say that it was amazingly better than other prime rib or cut of beef that I've had. Maybe I'm just not a prime rib afficionado, or I've been lucky enough that I have a number of places to go if I want a nice cut of beef, but I was just not wowed by the meal itself.

For some reason, they don't seem to have the dessert menu on the website, so I'm going off memory here. Because they knew that we were celebrating the husband's birthday, they brought him a bit of the English trifle, and they even sang him a song. But with just the female voices, sung in a way that made me think they were trying to be soothing rather than festive, it kept making me think that the nurses were singing him a nice birthday song at the hospital to cheer him up, but they didn't want to wake the other patients. The husband ended up not eating his birthday gift since it had raspberries in it, which he seriously dislikes, so I ended up having that for dessert while he ordered a slice of banana creme pie or something like that, which he enjoyed.

My choice of moniker aside, Nurse Ratched was actually quite pleasant. She was attentive without hovering, and she actually had a nice little conversation with the husband about the glass of wine he chose as well as about other wines she liked.

Side note: I mentioned the little girl in a high-chair at a nearby table. She was the cutest thing and friendly too, which just won the hearts of the servers, a couple of whom came by and visited with her several times. I think the husband made some comment about how the pediatric ward is always popular with the nurses.

All in all, we had a good experience, but I think for me, it just didn't live up to the expectations I had for it. The food was good, but not outstanding, the service was good, though the uniforms were distracting, and the decor wasn't nearly as elegant as I had expected. It may also be that the meal was literally meat and potatoes, and I'm not really a strict "meat and potatoes" kind of person - I'm used to a little more variety. Even at Northwoods Inn, which I absolutely love, it's very much "meat and potatoes" there, but the meal just seems more interesting there. I don't regret having gone to Lawry's, and I'm glad that I had the experience. I wouldn't object to going back if friends had a special occasion and wanted to go there (and at least next time, I'll know what to expect), but it's not a restaurant that I would choose to visit again.

Lawry's The Prime Rib
100 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Joss Whedon does horror

Joss Whedon, known for the television shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Firefly" and the current "Dollhouse", has been working on a horror film. But, with the Joss twist, of course. I know that some of the actors in his stable will be in the film, but I don't know anything else about it. This weekend, at Comic-Con, some images of the posters for the movie have been released, and they definitely show Joss' twist. Three posters were released, including the one below.

Here's a link to where all three posters can be seen.

I'm not big on horror movies, but I might have to go see this one just because of Joss and the cast. I'll just bring Teddy (or maybe even Gloomy) to protect me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

When is a cat like a fish?

When it's in a fishbowl!

Who knew that a cat could squeeze itself into a tiny little fishbowl. I guess the cat was just mostly fur. But the video is still amazing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Comic-Con started today, down in San Diego. While I know a lot of cool stuff happens there, I'm not sure that my interests coincide with enough of the offerings there to make it worth my while to go. It also occurs at a fairly inconvenient time of year - July has a lot of other stuff going on, and taking the time off to attend Comic-Con is probably prohibitive at this time. Also, I've heard a ton of horror stories about hellacious lines, and while I've done my share of lines at other cons, I'm not sure I have the patience to weather the ones at Comic-Con. However, I do have a friend who's attending this year, and I've enjoyed his tweets from today. I know there will be plenty more to come this weekend, especially on Friday when I know a lot of cool panels will be going on, so I'm looking forward to reading his tweets and talking to him about the whole con in length sometime later.

And Google's even getting in on the fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" - July 22, 2009 episode

This episode went back to starting the way they normally do - recap of the last episode and intro of the contestants. But, there's still no video from tonight's show on the website yet. Maybe I'm doing these recaps too early for them now. Oh well. No screen shots for you.

Jamie was glad she was still in the game, and she was sad that Drew was gone, but she was *really* mad at Justin and Dan. They tried to make nice with her, but she wasn't having any of it. Back at the house, Justin tried to explain how she and Drew were isolating themselves, and it made Justin feel left out of the team and that he couldn't trust them, but that did not sit well with Jamie at all. Meanwhile, the eavesdropping Green Tigers were eating up all the drama.

Game time!

But first, a derail. So, the show was starting, and they showed Rome making his way out to the stage. There was a part where he was looking at some kind of penguin costume or something - that part wasn't weird. But right before then, he walked past an open door, and walking in the room on the other side of the door was someone carrying one of the giant stuffed pink bears. That wasn't weird either. What was weird was that the person carrying the bear was wearing a giant rabbit head. Now, if it was one of the contestants wearing a rabbit head, that would be one thing. But why would random person be walking around in a rabbit head? Curiouser and curiouser.

OK, really, game time!

The first game was called "brain freeze fish breath". Did I mention that the Japanese are whack? Yep, this was pretty much bobbing for frozen fish. (One of the contestants, maybe Linda?, said that it was fish and squid, but I only saw fish. They were all frozen and giant in any case.) There were two aquariums full of ice and water and frozen fish. The contestants had to stick their faces in the water (they were wearing goggles) and try to grab a fish only with their mouth. Whoever got the most in 2 1/2 minutes won.

Oh, and when they were backstage, they had the contestants wearing inner tubes and arm floaties, but that was all just for show since they didn't wear any of them during the competition.

The contestants were having a hard time getting any fish, mostly because bobbing for them was difficult, but APPARENTLY, the ice and water were really freezing cold, because the interview clips showed all of them absolutely complaining about it, and after Justin stuck his head in and then pulled it out, his head was *really* pink and almost red from the cold.

The Green Tigers pulled out a win again, scoring 3 fish whereas the Red Robots only scored 1.

I can't remember if it started from the first round, but Rome has been doing this thing where he talks about being "safe" for whichever team wins the second game, and he does this slide thing, kinda like in baseball. They've been doing it pretty much every time now, with everyone joining in. It's funny.

The second game had the contestants dressed in baby clothes - giant diapers with a safety pin, bib and bonnet. The game was called "baby go boom boom" and was similar to a game played last season. Each team sat in a spinning disc, and after it had spun at least 20 times, the first person had to make their way down a plank and then while jogging on another spinning disc, fill two cups with milk and then make their way through an obstacle course with other spinning discs and spanking hands and shooting steam and such, until they got to a giant baby bottle, where they would pour in the milk they still had in their cups and then hit a buzzer. The other team members have been spinning all this time, and once the buzzer was hit, the next person could go. They had a total of 3 minutes to navigate the obstacle course and get milk.

So, umm, before the game, when Judge Bob was kinda doing the demo - what was with him in the baby clothes being spanked? Whack, I tell you, whack.

Since the Green Tigers won the first game, the advantage was that one of the Red Robots had to be "carried on grandma's back", which really meant they had to strap a stuffed person of grandma to their front. Dan volunteered to be the one strapped to grandma.

The Red Robots went first, with Jamie leading them off. She did really poorly, falling a lot and spilling most of her milk. She barely had a few drops to pour into the baby bottle. Justin went next, and he did a really good job, getting quite a bit of milk into the baby bottle, and when he'd gotten through about half the course, he poured the remaining contents of one cup into the other and then stacked them, so now, he only really had one cup to hold, and he could use his other hand to balance or whatever. This was a method that pretty much everyone else playing the game adopted. Dan then took his turn, but he was seriously hampered with having grandma strapped to him, especially when he had to crawl into the hole before getting sprayed by steam - he almost didn't fit through and pretty much had to flatten grandma to make it. He had a little milk left over, and then Justin took another turn. He did a great job, and he made it back to the baby bottle with almost a full cup right before time expired. The Red Robots were pretty happy with how they'd done.

Next up were the Green Tigers. The first two people did ok, not getting a ton of milk through but not spilling all of it either. When Brent took his turn, he started off a bit slowly down the plank, but he was able to keep quite a bit of his milk to pour into the baby bottle. Linda was then the last to go, and she also did really well, also having just about a full cup to contribute to the baby bottle.

They had a reveal of the contents of each bottle to determine the winner, but it was obvious from just watching the game that the Green Tigers won. It wasn't until they had the bottles side by side, though, that you could tell that the Green Tigers had twice as much milk as the Red Robots.

The Red Robots were dejected to have lost again. At the end of that game, when they were going out with majide, I kinda thought it was funny that Jamie was barely doing a half-hearted attempt at the majide hand signal. She was *not* happy. But, drama started again. She knew she'd be in the elimination round, but Dan and Justin were jockeying to *not* be the one in the round with her, and she realized that she would probably be the one choosing the other contestant for the elimination round. Meanwhile, the Green Tigers were eavesdropping on this conversation from their room.

But first things first - reward and punishment. The diaper costume from the last round was actually appropriate for the reward and punishment.

The Green Tigers were the guests of honor at a sumo school/sumo house. (OK, there was a sign on the front that said "sibatayamabeya aoki" [or it might have been "sibatayama beya aoki" - I couldn't tell because the "beya" was actually on a different line, so I didn't know if it was supposed to be a different word or the sign wasn't wide enough to hold all the letters so they just split the word up that way], which I took to be the name of the school, but a Google search turned up nothing, so I have no idea what that means. Heck, for all I know, the sign could have said, "beyond these doors lie giant Japanese men".) Mama-San also went along as the translator. The sumo wrestlers fought matches in front of them, and they learned a lot about them. I thought it was interesting that they blurred out parts of the sumo wrestlers. At first, I was wondering if they were blurring out boy bits, but in most of the shots, there shouldn't be any boy bits where the blurring was, so they were really just blurring out butt cheeks. Really, butt cheeks? That's all? OK, I know their butt cheeks are probably more substantial than regular butt cheeks, but women in skimpy bikinis showing their butt cheeks don't seem to be an issue being shown on TV, but sumo wrestlers' butt cheeks aren't ok? Whatever. After a little while, Brent was offered the opportunity to participate in a fight. Since he was the only male on the Green Tigers, he would have been the only one who could do that. He accepted and he let them strap the sumo diaper on him. He actually did quite well, holding his own against the fighter before pushing the other fighter out of the circle and winning the match. Oh, and yeah, they blurred Brent's butt cheeks too.

The Red Robots also had a day having to do with sumo wrestlers, but from a very different perspective. Their punishment was to be sumo servants for the day. Jamie was given kitchen duty (I guess because she was the female), and she had to prepare food and cook for them, which she complained about incessantly. Meanwhile, Dan and Justin weren't having too much fun either - they were given bathroom-cleaning duty, which was bad in and of itself, but while they were cleaning, one of the sumo wrestlers went in there and was taking a shower in the open room, as well as pointing out to them where they needed to clean better. Poor sheltered Dan was mortified at the naked man in the bathroom with him. After they were all done with that, all three of them then had to give massages to the sumo wrestlers. And yeah, Jamie bitched the whole time again.

Once their punishment was done, the Red Robots went back to the studio, and then it was time to decide who would be in the elimination round. Jamie decided that she had a better chance against Dan, so she picked him to play in the game with her. (But Justin was annoying me with his whole "puppetmaster" thing. Dude, lay off it.)

The game was called "up your nose, dragon". Each contestant had to slide across a slippery slope, with balls being released, and they had to knock the balls into the opening which was the dragon's nose. They then slid down into a pool of foam, and then they'd have to climb back up and do it again. They had 2 1/2 minutes to get as many balls into the dragon's nose as they could.

Dan was chosen to go first. He didn't do well in his first try, but he got the hang of it sometime. A few times, regardless of whether he got the ball in or not, he ended up slamming into the wall next to the dragon before falling into the foam. That looked painful. However, Dan did manage to score a total of 3 balls.

Then it was Jamie's turn. And there's really only one word to describe her turn. Fail. EPIC fail. (OK, that's two words.) Seriously. Her first attempt was really weak, not even getting half-way across the slope and nowhere near the balls being let go. For almost each turn, she barely made it across where she could even touch a ball. I think it was a combination of her being short, not getting a good running start to launch herself across, and landing too quickly on the ground, pretty much at the beginning, so she had no momentum to carry her across, high enough to touch the ball with some time to at least try to get it into the dragon's nose. From the footage they showed, she never even came close to even getting one ball in. When time expired, her score was ZERO.

But it was funny that the Sayonara Mob rose up out of the foam to carry her away.

I was glad to see Jamie leave. She was complaining all the time, and it was appropriate that she was the next to go right after her not-boyfriend, not-lover, nothing-was-going-on-with-him Drew.

Jamie Lewis
A "tell it like it is" kind of girl with a big mouth and no filter, Jamie is a spitfire from Philly who is sure to heat up this competition. "Being real" is what Jamie is all about, and whether or not people can handle the truth "isn't her problem." With her spunky charm, bubbly personality and electric smile, it's easy to see why Jamie describes herself as "a ray of sunshine." And with her feisty, in-your-face attitude, it's also easy to see why she adds that she's "a ray of sunshine that isn't afraid to burn you." Possessing the "rawness" that she feels embodies her beloved hometown of Philly, Jamie is "honest to a fault, opinionated and tough, but also has the biggest heart in the world." After the Eagles lost their shot at the Super Bowl recently, Jamie says, "Philly is hungry for a new champion, and she intends to be the Rocky of Majide!"
Age: 25
Hometown: Fairless Hills, PA
Occupation: Leasing Agent

Next week, more hijinks ensue. And, the teams are too uneven again - 4 Green Tigers and 2 Red Robots. Are they going to make a Green Tiger switch teams again? If they did, would the Green Tigers be dumb enough to let Cathy go to the other team? Is Cathy *ever* going to miss out on a reward?

Hai, Majide!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Disney antenna topper - happy birthday

Disney has a lot of designs for antenna toppers, and we noticed a new one last week. It's a cute new birthday celebration one.

The little bit in front looks to be pretty fragile though, and I could see it breaking off really easily. But I still think it's cute.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I hatched a hippo!

There's a game on Facebook that I discovered a while ago. I think one of my friends was playing it, and the pictures looked cute, so I thought I'd check it out. The game is called Hatchlings, and you basically go looking in people's nests for eggs. There are a number of ways to get access to people's nests. Some eggs can only be used to feed your pets. Most eggs can be incubated, and then they'll hatch into something, and while you can sometimes tell what's going to hatch, you can't always. I've been playing for a couple months now, and it's a nice little diversion. Your pets have to be fed regularly - 10 eggs means they're totally full, but they lose an egg every 12 hours, so you have to replenish them by feeding them eggs. If a pet starves, then it runs away.

What I like most about this game are the things that you can hatch. They have all manner of things, mostly animals, and some I'm not crazy about, but I thought I'd show you some of my favorite pets. Beside or behind each pet, you can see what the egg looked like that they hatched from.

If you haven't noticed by now, I love cats, so I really like the little black kitty.

And this kitty kinda reminds me of a siamese, but I just think it's really pretty.

On the last round, they had some beach-themed eggs, and from that collection, I hatched a starfish and a crab, and I liked them enough to keep them.

It's not all cuteness and fun that are hatched from the eggs. Some are downright weird or ugly or creepy, and I don't keep those. You can also release hatched pets into the wild, which pretty much means you're getting rid of them. But there are other pets that fall less in the cute category that I still like.

This ghost almost counts in the cute category since it's just a funny image. I *love* the egg though - it's invisible!

And definitely not so much "cute", but Jason, as I've named this pet, is just cool.

Here's one that I thought was really funny. And yeah, you could pretty much tell from the egg what it was going to hatch into.

But today, I saw a pet in random person's account that caught my eye. I hoped to get one of the eggs to hatch, and after playing for a while, I did end up getting it. I don't think the design on the egg matches what it hatches into, but that's ok, because I hatched a hippo!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Isn't she pretty?

The husband and I are collectors of some of the work of artist Robert Olszewski, and among the things he creates are miniatures of attractions and buildings and such of Disneyland. He also has a line called pokitpals, which are little things that you can put pills and candy and whatnots in, to carry around. Well, there are a few new pokitpals that will be coming out in November, and I'm including pictures of one of them below.

The front of the pokitpal.

The back of the pokitpal.

The side view, to show the detailing.

Any Maleficent fans out there? ;)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

tell me something about cats that I don't already know

Someone on a mailing list that I'm on posted this link to an article about how cats control humans. They had to spend all that money to do research to figure that out? That's about as newsbreaking as the whole discovery that if you eat at McDonald's three times a day every day for a couple of months, then you'll get fat! Anyone who has or ever had a cat could have told you that people don't own cats - people are OWNED, and yes, totally controlled by cats. If they need any more obvious answers to the universe figured out, just go ahead and give me the grant money, and I'll just tell them the answers. Easy enough.

(And not that this is relevant to anything, but this blog post was done while I've been sitting inside the living room of the Dream House inside Innoventions at Disneyland. : ) )

Friday, July 17, 2009

birthday wishes

Today is the 54th birthday of Disneyland. Guess where I'm spending the day? ;)

And what better way to celebrate a birthday than with FIRE!

4 years ago, the husband and I were fortunate to be able to attend a multi-day event in celebration of Disneyland's 50th birthday. On the Saturday night, the night before the actual birthday, there was a party held in the former Festival of Fools arena. First, dinner was served, and then the most spectacular show you could imagine, with live highlights from past Disneyland attractions.

There was a segment on the Tahitian Terrace, and then there were real life fire dancers. They were AWESOME.

If you want to read about all the events that occurred over those several days in celebration of Disneyland's 50th birthday, here's the link, but a warning - it's REALLY LONG and very picture heavy. I am *not* kidding.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" - July 15, 2009 episode

This week's episode was weird in that they didn't do a recap of last week, and there wasn't even the intro segment where they showed all the contestants. They must have decided there was too much going on and they needed the airtime - usually, it seems like they're just filling space.

(And speaking of weirdness, the website didn't have any promo videos of this show like they normally do, so whereas I normally go and do screen grabs for pictures, there won't be any in this post.)

This show started right after the end of last week - Megan was happy that she wasn't eliminated, but she was sad, in tears, that good buddy Bobaloo left. She said something about winning that made it sound like she was going to share with him. Really?

Meanwhile, drama was playing out on the Red Robots team. Jamie and Drew have gotten very close, even to the point of sleeping in the same bed, though they claimed nothing has happened between them and that they haven't even kissed, but their antics have made virgin Dan very uncomfortable.

But enough of house life, it's game time.

The first game was called "Soccer Time With Grandpa!" Each of the contestants wore wigs that gave them white hair and made them look like they were balding. The task was to kick a ball into a goal, and whichever team had the most goals won. Easy, huh? Yeah, then that must not be the entire game.

First of all, the teams were uneven, with 5 Red Robots and 3 Green Tigers, so Rome told the Red Robots that they had to choose a member to go over to the Green Tigers. After a short discussion, it was decided to send Cathy back over to the Green Tigers, where she'd come from. The Green Tigers were amazed that the Red Robots let her go and joyously welcomed her back.

The next twist was that the contestants had to wear goggles which really distorted their vision and depth of field, so when they went to kick the ball, they couldn't even really tell where the ball was, and oftentimes, they were just kicking thin air. They each took a turn kicking a ball that was on a tee, and any touch of the ball meant their turn was over, but bumping and ricocheting of others' balls counted. The goal had a pit at the bottom, and as long as the ball went into the pit, it counted.

Each team had 2 minutes, and most of them had a very difficult time, but after a few tries, some of them started to get the hang of it. They all complained that they couldn't really tell where the ball was, which is why they were kicking at nothing, but I wondered why they didn't just pick their foot up and measure where it was compared to the ball, and if that wouldn't give them a better idea of where to kick. None of them seemed to do that though.

The Green Tigers started off slowly but then picked up the pace, and they got a total of 5 balls. The Red Robots took their turn, and they were on a roll for a while, getting a number of balls into the pit. Jamie took her turn, and she really kicked the hell out of the ball, kicking it over the goal altogether and also nailing one of the cameras filming the event. In the end, the Red Robots ended up with 3 balls, so the Green Tigers won. Rome commented that Cathy was still on a winning team, and the other Green Tigers called her their good luck charm.

As has been the case this year, they immediately went into the next game, which was called "Stuck On Golf". Two members of the same team hit balls off of human tees - their other teammates, who had helmets with tees on top. They were to hit the balls onto a sticky surface. The other team's job was to clear as many of the balls off the sticky surface as possible. First, two team members would do it for 30 seconds, and then the other two team members would do it for 30 seconds, and then in the last 30 seconds, all four team members could clear balls.

Because the Green Tigers had won the first game, they had an advantage - one of the Red Robots had to wear shackles, making it harder to move.

The Red Robots went first, with Dan wearing the shackles. They were falling down a lot and so getting more and more of the sticky stuff on them, making it harder to clear the balls. Jamie was so stuck that she couldn't even manage to get off the mat when she was supposed to have swapped out. They also had trouble pulling the balls off the surface, and even when they could do that, the balls stuck to them, and they couldn't fling the balls off the playing field.

The Green Tigers were next, and Brent was in the first group of defenders, and his strategy was to stand at the very front of the mat and deflect the hit balls before they could even land on the mat. That turned out to work quite well, and even after he tagged out and the next group came in, and when they were all working together at the end, they seemed to have a much easier time pulling off and discarding balls than the Red Robots. I think they stayed much cleaner and so didn't have as much of the sticky goo on them, and they managed to pick up the balls that were just sitting on the goo, making them easier to get rid of. I think the Red Robots were leaning on the balls too much before picking them up, making them stick to the surface even more, and then getting more of the goo on themselves.

When the contest was over, the Red Robots had left 24 balls on the mat. The Green Tigers had left only 15 balls on the mat, which continued Cathy's unbroken winning streak.

The Green Tigers' reward for the next day was to visit a sake brewery and beef plant. They traveled three hours north, and Mama-San went along to translate. They tried different kinds of sake and liked what they had. They were also able to try yamagata beef, which is very tender, and it was cooked shabu shabu style. Cathy was concerned that it was only cooked for a short time, but she was amazed at how delicious the beef was. Yep, that's what happens when it's great quality beef and you slice them that thin too.

Meanwhile, the Red Robots were enduring their punishment - they were going to be harvesting seaweed. They woke up at 3am to get to a boat at Chiba Harbor to head out into the waters around 5am. As they were boarding the boat, Drew said that he wasn't feeling well and decided to sit that part out, which did *not* sit well with Dan, who said Drew didn't seem sick 5 minutes prior. I was surprised that Drew was allowed to beg off that major portion of the punishment.

They were shown the nets where the seaweed was trapped and how they had to pull the seaweed out and into a bucket - slimy and smelly. After hours of that, they came back to shore, and they were shown how to make nori sheets. For this part, Drew did participate. After some time doing that, they were given a lunch break - which consisted of a couple small fish on seaweed. Bon appetit!

I was actually laughing quite a bit during this entire segment because the husband *hates* seaweed, something he blames on his years of decorating Rose Parade floats with seaweed. (Now, I happen to love seaweed, but I think even I would have had a difficult time with this punishment.) When we have sushi and have cut rolls on the rare occasion, he'll ask for soy paper instead of seaweed, or he'll only be able to deal with the seaweed if it's an inverted roll, with the rice on the outside, so he can't really taste the seaweed. On the occasions when the sushi chef has given us free seaweed salad, I'm quite happy because I don't have to share! And the funniest thing was one time when the sushi chef gave each of us a toro hand roll. I couldn't help laughing as I watched the husband sitting there, holding the roll, wanting the toro so much but not being able to get over the seaweed. I suggested to him that he could just use the seaweed cone as a container and use chopsticks to eat the toro from inside it. He liked that idea and picked out as much of the toro as he could that wasn't touching the seaweed. And then I got to eat the rest of his hand roll! During this punishment, I wondered if he would just refuse to do it, because it was basically his idea of hell. And then lunch? Well, he'd just starve!

OK, derail over.

The next morning, the Red Robots still had to decide which two people to send to the elimination game. Both Dan and Justin wanted Drew and Jamie because they didn't like the alliance they had created. Drew and Jamie were mad because the rule had APPARENTLY been that whomever did poorly in the challenges would go to elimination. Jamie knew she'd go because of how badly she'd done on both challenges, but since Dan didn't do well either, she figured he'd be in the elimination round too. Jamie was really upset at how things were going and went into her room to cry. And she had cried when her team had lost the first game on this round. Please, make the girls stop crying! They were then at a stalemate since Drew and Jamie decided to vote for Dan and Justin. I know that Jamie said it should be decided by who did poorly in challenges, but I thought that Drew bailing on most of the punishment the day before would have earned him an automatic trip to the elimination round.

When the Red Robots were summoned out by Rome, they told him they couldn't decide on two people, so he said that then the Green Tigers would decide for them and brought them out. In the end, the Green Tigers chose Drew and Jamie to compete in the elimination round.

The name of the elimination round game was "Stretchy Squid Face". Each of them had to wear a pantyhose mask on their head, with a hole cut out for their mouth, and they had to rip off the heads of squids with their mouths. The pantyhose was attached to the base, so they'd have to pull harder to make it down the line of squid. At first, the husband thought the squid was fake plastic, but as they showed a shot of them, it was clear that they were indeed real - and gigantic - and raw. Ewwwww. Now, I like squid, but I like it cooked, and on the rare occasions when I've had it raw, I wasn't that crazy about it, but the task set out for them would definitely have been something that would have turned my stomach. Speaking of which, if Drew was getting queasy about going on a boat and eating fish and seaweed, I didn't think having giant raw squid in his mouth was going to go over very well.

When the game started, Jamie did quite well off the bat whereas Drew struggled. She was making her way down the line very quickly while Drew was still trying to figure out how to complete the task. OK, how do I say this? Well, if you saw it, you know what I mean. If not, you can just use your imagination based on what I'm about to say. I would say that Jamie, as the woman, had an advantage over Drew, the straight man, as far as knowing what method to use to best get all of the tentacles in her mouth enough to yank the head off. The image was pretty graphic - I'm not sure they intended it to happen that way.

In any case, Drew finally got the hang of it, ripping into the squid on the side (as opposed to the method used by Jamie - see?), and he started gaining on her, especially since she was farther away now and had to struggle with the pantyhose pulling her back, whereas he was stronger and didn't have as hard a time. As time was running out, Jamie's pantyhose actually snapped off her head.

When it came down to the count of squidheads removed, Jamie had 12, and Drew had 11. The Green Tigers and the rest of the Red Robots were elated that Drew was eliminated. He did start to get entirely too cocky, so I wasn't sorry to see him go.

Drew Sealey
Good looking, smart and admittedly shallow, Drew is as blunt as they come. This successful attorney has a high opinion of himself and has a low tolerance for those who don't meet his standards. Working hard for his money, he's happy being frivolous with it and loves showing it off with toys and in his lifestyle. Drew works hard but plays harder; he frequently flies to South Beach and Vegas to party on the weekends. Into his looks, skin care and clothes, this pretty boy is as straight as they come. He thinks the world revolves around him and will only help others out if it would benefit him in one way or another.
Age: 29
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Occupation: Attorney

Next week, adults in giant diapers, and then it looks like they're bobbing for fish in freezing water. And more drama and fallout from Drew's departure and Drew and Jamie's "relationship".

Hai, Majide!