Saturday, March 28, 2009

Antarctica to Pyramids — Lights Dim for Earth Hour

That's the title of an internet article I saw today. That's fine and everything, but didn't Earth used to have an entire day? Does this mean that in the last few years we've made the Earth 1/24th as important as it used to be?

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Review of Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, Wisconsin Dells

... and you thought that I'd forget about this post. Sorry... this post is a freebie, so I've got to take advantage of it.

That's right. Today's post is a review of Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park in the Wisconsin Dells. There are several different aspects to Mt. Olympus... there's the hotel itself, the indoor water park, the indoor theme park, the outdoor water park, and the outdoor theme park. Due to the fact that we went during the off-season, the outdoor water park was unavailable, so I won't be giving it a review. We checked out most of the other stuff though, and I'll happily give you a review. Hopefully, this review will help others who are considering Mt. Olympus or a trip to the Dells in general.

The first thing I need to mention about the Dells in general is that it's a tourist trap type of destination. This in and of itself is not a good or bad thing... you just kind of need to be in a mindset where you realize that you're in a tourist trap before you head out. Food is REALLY expensive there, and every other shop is a crappy little shop that sells stuff plugging the Wisconsin Dells. Backing up to the food... I take pride in my desire to try out local restaurants, and trying the local cuisine. The Dells is one place though, that I'd recommend NOT trying the local food. The local establishments tend to be significantly more expensive than the national chains, and the food isn't that good. And good luck finding a place to take a leak. But getting back to Mt. Olympus...

I really wasn't impressed with the hotel rooms - or the hotel for that matter. There was a cursory attempt to make the hotel look Roman, but the designers did a piss-poor job of pulling it off, and the maintenance crew further undermined the designers' mediocre vision. The halls were carpeted with 1970's-era carpet squares, the lobby was decorated with chipped Styrofoam columns (translation: babies could have choked on the foam beads), and the rooms were furnished with 2X6-constructed furniture. The furniture wasn't bad in and of itself, except that it clashed with the decor of the hotel... the furniture would have been fine in a rustic cabin-style room. By the way, there were NO drawers in which to store clothing.

The TV was ancient. There was cable TV, but no place to hook up a computer, portable DVD player or gaming console. Not a problem for me, but a horrendous oversight on the part of a "resort" that caters itself to kids. Thank God the kids were able to occupy themselves with the pay-per-view porn. (KIDDING!!)

I was equally underwhelmed by the indoor water park. It was too small, there weren't enough water slides, and the hot tubs were more accurately called lukewarm tubs. The indoor theme park was okay... if you were 12 or under. It had a small roller coaster, an indoor jungle gym, laser tag, a few games, and an indoor go-kart track. The kids liked the roller coaster. The laser tag arena was okay, but apparently a rather old setup, or the employees were idiots, because the only way to play was free-for-all... no teams. Personally, I think the employees were too lazy to configure it.

The games were the worst!! Every game there was one of those ticket-dispensing games... no games of skill... no race games... no pinball... no old-school nostalgic games... it all sucked! And the indoor go-kart track? Oh man, what a disappointment! The first day, the woman working the track was a veritable go-kart nazi! If you didn't ride single-file, slightly below the kart's maximum speed, watch out! Furthermore, the line was too long and slow. This could have been alleviated by a greater amount of efficiency on the part of the staff, but again, they didn't really care.

The real highlight was our last day... the one day the outdoor theme park was open. The roller-coasters looked respectable. (The kids rode them and had fun. I avoided them because of my tweaked neck.) But the outdoor go-kart tracks!! They rocked!! They alone were worth the crappy experience we had up to that point! Of course I suspect that if you go in the summer, you're going to spend all day in line. Suck to be you.

Oh yeah. One really good thing about Mt. Olympus. Before I say this, remember that we were there during the week, during the off-season... but we all played hide and seek/tag in the hotel on our last night. We played on all three floors of the hotel, running up and down the stairs and halls, hiding behind vending machines, and so forth. We made sure to try to keep things quiet, but when you have a herd of people running up and down the halls, you can't be fully successful in any endeavor to remain silent. At no point did any staff member or guest give us any grief about this. In fact, the staff simply gave us knowing smiles and continued about their business. I must say that THAT was cool.

At the end of the day, I wasn't impressed with Mt. Olympus. I liked The Wilderness better. The accommodations were better, the water park was MUCH better, and the arcade games didn't suck NEARLY as bad. But I think we spent a lot less at Mt. Olympus.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You Want the Drama? You Can't Handle the Drama!

I guess I asked for it. Well, technically, you requested this blog entry. But when I asked you all whether you'd prefer me to write a hotel review or a story about teen angst, I really should have known what you'd say. In fact, your answer should have been so predictable that posing the question was unnecessary. Well... it was. Anyway...

This drama involves four girls... my kid, neighbor girl, Beth and Violet, and it pretty much revolves around Violet. You see, Violet is what you'd call a drama queen. This most recent round of teen angst all started when my kid broke up with her boyfriend Ken. Ken and my kid dated for over a year, surviving a couple of mini-breakups along the way. I was initially impressed at how well they handled the split... even managing to remain cordial with one-another and not badmouthing to their friends. Enter Violet...

Somewhere along the line, a little sexual tension developed between Ken and Violet. This kind of makes sense to me, because Violet has certain mannerisms about her. To put it as delicately and tactfully as I possibly can, she acts like a classless little slut around boys. She bats her eyelashes, tosses her hair, twirls her gum around her finger, invades personal space and so forth. It should come as no surprise that horny little teenage boys would be attracted to this kind of behavior.

When my kid found out about the flirting, she was realistic enough to acknowledge that she was uncomfortable at the prospect of her friend dating her ex; she let them both know her discomfort, and they said that there was nothing going on, that they had no plans to date, and that they would honor her request. Despite this, my kid, neighbor girl, Beth, neighbor girl's parents, Mrs. Evan and I all suspected that these two would probably end up dating. We were right. We just couldn't predict how things would unfold...

The girls all decided to skip this year's Sadie Hawkins dance and have a party at neighbor girl's house. The day of the party, Violet said that she was grounded and couldn't go to the party. During the party, my kid, neighbor kid, and Beth found out that Violet wasn't grounded, she went to Sadie Hawkins with Ken.

But wait... it gets better. Violet had the audacity to show up at neighbor girl's party later that night... she said that her parents let her come over after all, trying to play things off as if nothing had happened. When she was called on her deceit, Violet became hysterical, crying and screaming stuff like "I can't help it if I'm the pretty one! I can't help it if nobody wants to date you and everyone wants to be with me!" By the way, nobody in this story has really discussed who the pretty one is, but we have unanimously agreed that it's not Violet.

After this drama, neighbor parents, Mrs. Evan and I all recommended that my kid, neighbor girl and Beth all let this thing go. Just ignore Violet... at least until this round of drama dies down. Of course they were all pissed at Violet; they acknowledged our advice but said they weren't going to follow it. Understandable. After all, they are teenage girls.

For the next couple of weeks, there were many snide comments left on Violet's facebook profile. Violet tried to make herself look like the mature one, and to come across as a victim of petty action on the parts of my kid, neighbor girl and Beth, but her story was inconsistent enough that it was relatively completely unbelievable.

Fast-forward a bit, to a day when Violet actually posted pictures of her in the shower on her facebook profile. The pictures didn't show any nudity, but they were provocative enough that she looked downright trampy... especially considering that she's not an adult. As soon as the pictures were posted, the claws came out, and the other girls started tossing unbecoming words around her facebook profile. The most frequently-used word rhymes with 'nut.' The shower photos were pulled from Violet's profile faster than... well, it was really fast. Once again, neighbor parents, Mrs. Evan and I recommended that the girls let things die, and the kids again politely disregarded our sage advice.

Circumstances, however, actually forced the kids to stop for a while. Neighbor family and the family of Evan went on a mini-vacation, and we brought Beth. The kids were all kind of catty amongst themselves about Violet, but they had no communication with Violet during this vacation. Apparently though, Violet didn't like the lack of attention. While we were on vacation, she spent a couple of hours deleting from facebook any negative comments she had written (whether on her profile, my kid's, neighbor girl's or Beth's profile), and removed any provocative photos of her from her profile, and then went to her parents, claiming that the other three were forming a hate club against her. The parents then called Beth's parents to complain. Beth's parents got involved, logging on to Beth's facebook account and changing the password so that she was locked out of her own facebook profile, and they called beth while we were on our mini-vacation to yell at her about the whole thing. Beth, of course, was very distressed.

I might also add that Violet's parents never called neighbor parents or us about any of this... they didn't even leave a message on our phones while we were on vacation. I have some theories about why they didn't call us, but that's beyond the scope of this story.

Hopefully, the kids are ready to let this die. Ideally, they're ready to cut off any ties with Violet. This story is really one story in a long pattern of behavior.

We did get a standing inside joke out of the whole thing though. Whenever someone had a WTF moment (Damn, I can't believe I did such-and-such) someone else would throw in a "That's okay. You can get away with it when you're the pretty one."

Our Mini-Vacation

The house of Evan just got back from a quick three-day mini vacation in the Wisconsin Dells. As we did last year, we went with the neighbor family. I really like vacationing with the neighbor family. There are more kids, which keeps our kids occupied, and Mrs. Evan and I thoroughly enjoy neighbor parents' company. In fact, we had an adults-only dinner -- our first since we've known each other -- and made the kids stay in and order room service. The trip was wholly uneventful in the way of unexpected adventures, so we made due by making references to past tribulations.

The kids, however, had a little drama relating to a so-called friend of theirs. Maybe I'll write about that tomorrow. It's either that, or a review of the hotel's accommodations. Preferences?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Damned Liberal Yuppie Hippie Nimbys

I'm up way too early this morning, surfing the internet for my morning dose of news. Reading is a daily occurrence; getting up this early is a result of going to bed early last night.

I read a couple of articles this morning that really chapped my hide. Let's begin with the Natasha Richardson article. I should probably start off by saying I don't have much to say about her death. It appears that she was popular and well-liked, but I'm not familiar with her work. What irritates me is the report that some politician in Canada is mulling a law requiring skiers to wear helmets as a result of Richardson's death. Come on!

Look, this can't possibly be Canada's first fatality caused by a head injury from skiing. And I sure don't believe that anyone proposed a helmet law previous to Richardson's death. I can just see the thought process now...

Several years back, some big-wig politician is reading the morning paper and drinking his morning coffee... "Oh, look ma. Some idiot died in a skiing accident. Oh well, I guess our tax revenue will decrease a bit this year, eh?"

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, where that same big-wig politician is once again reading the morning paper and drinking his morning coffee... "Oh, look ma. Some idiot died in a skiing accident. Oh well, I guess... HOLY SHIT!! That idiot was Natasha Richardson!! I had no idea that famous people could die in such an unbecoming way! We need to put a stop to this, eh? We need a law requiring everyone to wear helmets while skiing, lest we lose another celebrity!"

Sorry folks, I tend to think of this in the same manner that I think of motorcycle helmet laws, seat belt laws and even abortion and drug laws. It's my body. Quit trying to legislate what I can and cannot do to my own body. As I say this, please realize that I don't do drugs, I do wear a seat belt and a motorcycle helmet, and as a man it's tough for me to get an abortion. My point is that the government really shouldn't be trying to legislate away stupidity. Requiring the use of seat belts (and so forth) artificially reduces society's collective intelligence by protecting the very idiots that natural selection would remove from the gene pool. Since they're not dead, they're allowed to reproduce, thus watering down our gene pool with their stupidity.

The next story that chaps my hide comes from Diane Feinstein. It appears that the not-so-wise Ms. Feinstien is against putting solar panels in the desert. (Ummm... can you think of a better place for them?!?) Her rationale is based on two premises... first, that the desert will be less attractive, and second, a concern about what will happen to the local tortise population. Sorry, neither argument is valid in my book.

Let's start with the tortoise argument. The root of my position is that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. This applies to individuals, and taking a logical extrapolation, it could expand to an individual species. I am also going with the assumption that global warming exists, and that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. (She's a liberal, so she will probably agree with this.) By placing solar panels in the desert, mankind is doing something to reduce our fossil fuel consumption, which will help alleviate global warming... the same global warming that supposedly contributes to the stress on countless ecosystems, threatening many species with extinction. Even if one species (the tortoises in this case) went extinct as a result of the implementation of solar panels, it would be worth it to save dozens of other species. Furthermore, there is nothing in the article that indicates the entire species would be decimated; it only states that she's "worried" about the local tortoise population. Well, Ms. Feinstein, thank you ever so much for your concern.

As for the second argument... the aesthetics... boo-fucking-hoo. You're going to possibly alter the scenery for what -- a few hundred of your constituents? And what's the payoff? Cheap electricity for tens of thousands. Look, I'm not recommending that we cover the desert in solar panels, but I am saying that the nimbys need to get over themselves. If I have to tolerate the blight of wind farms on my prairies, then you need to be prepared to put up with a few solar panels. Furthermore, the solar panels could be very easily placed in a non-intrusive location, where the scenery isn't compromised for the masses. Maybe a bump on the head would help Ms. Feinstein see the light. Let's all pitch in and get her a ski pass before the helmet law gets passed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Random Notes

I've noticed that most of the blogs I follow have been silent for the last several days, so I'm taking a little initiative and doing my part to break the silence...

A couple of days ago, I downloaded the new add-on for Grand Theft Auto IV... it's called The Lost and Damned. I can't really explain why, but I love GTA IV. I finished the game and kept playing anyway. When I found out that Lost and Damned was being released, I knew I'd end up buying it. The add-on is a lot of fun. I'm about 20% of the way through the game... I'm taking my time and doing side missions and stuff like that. A couple of things I like so far... the races are cool... they're 8-person motorcycle races, and you can take out the other competitors with a baseball bat. I also ran into Niko, the main character from the original GTA IV storyline. Little things like that make the game continually fun.

The arm pain is still non-existent for the most part. Still getting some numbness, but it's still early in the healing game. I'm still trying to diligently pay attention to my posture, but the damage didn't accumulate overnight, so I don't expect it to disappear overnight either. The major downside is that I may not be able to do any whitewater kayaking this spring. On our annual boys' trips, we collaborate and decide what to do, and we decided to do some whitewater this year (mainly for my benefit, because I'm the main one who does whitewater). However, if I'm not 100%, I won't do any whitewater... especially considering how out of practice I am.

I've been working part-time for coming up on a year. I like it. The house of Evan doesn't have quite the amount of money coming in that we had before, but I was fortunate enough to find this part-time gig before the economy crashed, and my clients tend to be somewhat recession-resistant. I don't see myself going back to the full-time grind for quite a while. The kids like having me available to shuttle them to and from school, and to help them with homework, and Mrs. Evan really likes not having to do any housework. In return for being at the beckon call of others, I get a lot of free time... time to write, play video games, putter around the house, and to compose music. I guess this means that I'm semi-retired at 40-something. If this is retirement, sign me up.

Now, I'm off to surprise my younger kid by showing up unexpectedly for lunch.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Let the Healing Begin

I got the epidural for my swollen disc today. For those of you not quite up to speed (or in case this ends up being the destination of someone's Google search,), let me rehash what's what...

Approximately a month ago, I started noticing intermittent pain in my right shoulder, and numbness in my right thumb. The pain primarily felt like a pullet muscle at the top or rear of the shoulder, and the numbness would start at the thumb, occasionally moving up the arm. In severe cases, the numbness would move all the way up to the shoulder, and would occasionally encompass a broader swath of my arm.

After a couple of weeks, I decided this wasn't due to strain and saw the family doc. X-Rays revealed nothing, but an MRI showed a bulged disc between the C5 and C6 vertebrae. I was not surprised by this... that's where my internet research said the problem would probably be located, and I had a hunch that it was a nerve issue because I could cause the pain and numbness by rolling my head back.

Anyway, fast forward to today... the epidural itself. This is information I looked for, but really couldn't find. The procedure took about three to three and a half hours, from the time I walked in, to the time I walked out. About an hour of this was waiting for the doc. About 30 minutes was post-procedure recovery, where they made sure I wasn't going to have an allergic reaction to the medicine.

The procedure itself was relatively quick... 15 to 30 minutes. They started by disinfecting the area... actually, they cleaned my entire back... a little bit of overkill, but oh well... they reminded me several times to stay very still, and were very good about keeping me informed of their progress.

Now, for the details. They gave me two shots... one was something like Novocaine to deaden the pain, the second was the epidural shot itself. The epidural was not exactly fun, but it certainly didn't hurt horribly. On a scale from one to ten, the original pain is somewhere between one and two. The pain from the epidural itself rates in two to three range. The epidural procedure feels like a highly localized backache. It was a little more painful if I took a deep breath.

The procedure finished about two hours ago. I feel a little bit of tightness in the middle of my back... more of a muscle ache, and I feel a bit of bone tenderness at the injection site, but only if I move my head down a lot from its normal position. Side-to-side range of motion is normal.

My muscles and nerves feel a little weak... kind of similar to how I feel after first waking up from a nap... but there is no noticeable difference when I use the muscles. If you're concerned about an epidural, don't be.

I also talked to the doc about alternate treatments... massage, chiropractic treatment, ice, etc.

-Ice is probably good.

-Massage (gentle) is probably good.

-Chiropractic would be good if it was a lower back issue, but is not recommended for the upper back.

-Tylenol and other anti-inflammatory medications are good.

-A home traction setup is probably the next long-term recommendation.

-Accupuncture would be a good "third line" recommendation.

Let me be clear that my pain, numbness and discomfort is not severe enough where I would consider surgery, and this is not medical advice. I'm simply relaying my experience and telling you what my doc said to me for my specific case. Use or discard my experience at your own discretion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The house is messy, and I don't feel like cleaning. There. I've said it. I'm sure this is primarily because I'm not feeling 100%, but I also look around and once again am feeling like the kids just don't care. That's probably because they don't. It's just amazing how they can't put ANYTHING away. I guess that's not quite true. They do occasionally put dirty dishes in the sink, and when they take a shower, they put their dirty clothes in the hamper. But that truly is all they put away. They will put a dirty dish away, but leave trash the trash that was right next to the dish. They'll toss the dirty clothes into the hamper, but the clean clothes sit in a basket for days, and I have to threaten punishment in order to get stuff put away.

I'm really not feeling bitchy, I think I just wanted an excuse to not clean. But then again, I know how I operate. Even if I still feel crappy tomorrow, I will clean anyway, because I won't be able to stand the clutter.

On the good side, I feel less crappy than I did yesterday and last night. I'm still a little congested and listless, but I took some cold medicine... which seems to have helped more than the allergy medicine... maybe I've got a cold. Either way... I'm pumping myself full of fluids, resting and relaxing.

I had an MRI today. For the last couple of weeks... more than two weeks, but less than a month... I've been having right shoulder pain and numbness in my right thumb, but only when I move a certain way. I figured I'd get it looked at before it got serious. An X-Ray didn't catch it, so I had the MRI. They found a bulging disc in my back. Pretty much what I thought it was. Now I get to go in for an epidural steriod shot next week, with the hopes that the shot will reduce inflammation in the nerve and alleviate the pain and numbness.

The pain and numbness are something that I could live with, but I'd rather address it now as opposed to waiting until things spiral out of control. It's the only body I've got, and I put some hard miles on it when I was a little younger. I figure it's time to start taking care of it.

Not Exactly Insomnia

It's 4:30 in the morning, and I'm sitting in front of the computer. The kids crashed in the living room, so I can't watch TV or read a book. Hey, no sense in making everyone else suffer with me, right? Believe me, I'd much rather be sleeping right now, but my allergies are giving me some grief. After waking up every 30 to 60 minutes due to sinus congestion, I finally gave up, got up and took a long, hot shower. It provided a few minutes of relief. Now, I'm hoping that sending some scalding hot tea down my throat will help things a bit. It's certainly not hurting anything, but I wish I could taste it.

I'm lucky in the aspect that I don't get sick. I think it's because my immune system is such an efficient machine. Unfortunately, it's also a little overzealous and attacks benign invaders such as pollen. The part that really sucks is that allergy season hasn't come close to kicking in, and it's been raining for days straight, which has the effect of reducing airborne pollen. In other words, it's going to get worse before it gets better and I'm just going to have to tolerate it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Glimpse of Spring

The weather hit almost 70 degrees today, and I've been taking advantage of it all day. The sun is shining, the curtains are pulled back, the windows and doors are open and I can hear the birds singing from the nearby trees. What a beautiful afternoon!

My older daughter had finals today, so she got home early from school. We went on a short motorcycle ride, and then she went for a bike ride with the neighbor girl and they had a picnic at a nearby park. I happily spent the next hour or so raking leaves from the front yard. It's not specifically that I like raking, but I wanted an excuse to enjoy the first real day of spring-type weather.

Later on, my younger daughter came home from school, so I took her on a bike ride as well. As usual, tolerates longer rides better than her older sister, so the second ride lasted about twice as long as the first. On the way home, I stopped and grabbed some beer for me, and some chips for the kid. (Side note, my new saddlebags are about the perfect size for a six pack of tallboys.)

After returning home, I cracked a beer and played fetch with the dogs... er, dog. The older one won't fetch anymore. That lasted for about two minutes, at which point the dogs and I all lost track of the tennis ball. Oh well, I'm sure it'll turn up when I run over it with the mower in a few weeks.

The only thing that'll make this day any better is sharing some quiet outside time with my sweetie. Maybe I'll ask her to pick up something to grill when she's on the way home from work.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I wish I could think of something to write about... but I can't. I've been reading the news about how the economic sky is falling, and all I can think is... WTF!?! Seriously.

I'm not going to say that I'm debt-free, because I'm not. I owe some on my credit card, I owe on the house, and I owe on my student loan. But I don't own a new car. I don't live in a McMansion, I don't have too many credit cards that are all at their limit, and I didn't keep re-financing the house every time the assessed value went up.

I'm not a super-saver, but I'm not a super-spender either. Unfortunately, it seems that the entire rest of the country does fall into one of these two categories... and many of the super-spenders are learning their lesson, and becoming super-savers. This is going to wreak havoc on the government's plans for recovery. Less spent money equals a slower recovery and fewer taxable dollars.

It's about time that we learn to moderate a bit... quit keeping up with the neighbors and spending beyond our means. Too bad our kids (and their kids, and their kids -- assuming that global warming doesn't wipe out the planet before then) will have to pay for it all.

Repent. The end is near.