Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bathroom Humor

I'm off visiting Tek today. So you'll have to wait another day for the final batch of Busch Gardens pics.

To tide you over, we have a return engagement from Kinder Happy Hippo and Dog. ((You may recall them from this earlier filler ... ))

And that, kids, is why you should never play shark and try to scare your bathmate!

Busch Gardens - The Animals, Part 2

All Aboard!

The picture train is about to leave the station.

Please keep your arms and legs inside the blog at all times. Do not try to stand up while the blog is moving. Secure loose articles, as this blog cannot be held responsible for lost or damaged property. Flash photography is permitted, but it might enrage the animals who will then maul you, and those seated near you. This blog will not be held liable for that, either. Do not fold, spindle, staple, or mutilate ... anything. Ever.

And, for heaven's sake, don't ever, EVER, remove those tags from your mattress. The Mattress Police will come and blow up your house, cook your pets, send your children to the salt mines, smear you with honey and stake you out over an ant hill in the blazing desert sun until you can state all the US Vice-Presidents in reverse alphabetical order while gargling spoiled milk and fish entrails.

This blog might be held liable for that, so please, for the sake of my family, DON'T DO IT! (Well, except the kids and salt mine thing, you can cause that if you want.)

Now that I've gotten you warmed up for the trip ... we're off!

I forgot to show you the very first pictures I took when we arrived at Busch Gardens. How inconsiderate of me.

Right past the entrance, with it's 738 shops, 327 kiosks, and about 63 eateries, (not to mention the hordes of annoying camera wielding staff who body block your forward progress and demand you hold still for a family picture you can pick up at the end of your visit for only $39.95, the deed to your house, your first born child, an arm, a leg, and whatever loose change you have in the little space between the front seats of your car), is the Morocco section.

A great animal habitat called Myombe Reserve is there. It's basically a primate preserve with chimps, gorillas, and other monkeys that you can get as close as a pane of thick glass to.

We didn't go in there.

I did take a a shot of the kids monkeying around, though.

This Explains So MuchRight before that entrance is a large habitat for American alligators.

Now, I live in Florida, so seeing these great reptiles is nothing new to me. They are not so prevalent, nor as easily located, as when I was a kid. Or as the popular myth of Florida being overrun with gators makes it seem. But you can find them in almost every pond, lake, or stream, man-made or not.

Floridians know to respect the alligator. Because if you don't, it might eat you. Or, at least your dog.

Anyhow, for those of you who live in more northern climes, here is a closeup of Alligator mississippiensis, the American Alligator. (And, yes, that is the true species name of it).

American Alligator at Busch GardensThis bad boy was about 9 or 10 feet long. And, don't let his sun-basking, half-asleep look of calm serenity fool you. This beast is watching you, waiting for you to fall over the railing into his habitat, and wondering if you taste like chicken.

You can tell this by his toothy smile.

Back on track now.

After the Bird Gardens, Land of the Dragons, Stanelyville (SheiKra, Stanelyville Falls Flume), and a long trek, we found ourselves entering Timbuktu.

Timbuktu at Busch GardensTimbuktu is the central area of Busch Gardens. It is done up in African-style wood and stucco buildings, brightly colored awnings, and the traditional African roller coasters, flat rides, and carnival games. No self-respecting African village is ever without those, you know.

The coasters are small ones, and the flat rides range from sedate bi-planes, to an inverted pirate ship, to a whirling Sandstorm. We didn't ride any of those this trip, though Sandstorm and Cheetah Chase are on my to-do list for the next trip. As well as the Pirates 4-D show which is in the old Dolphin show palace.

I used to love the dolphin show, but Busch had to close it down due to high costs, low attendance, and the fact that people kept tossing coins into the dolphin habitats and they got copper poisoning from all the pennies. Okay, the penny thing may be a local urban legend, but there have been documented cases of dolphins in captivity dying from copper and zinc poisoning from coins in their water, as well as chlorine poisoning. Sad, sad, sad. :(

So, while sad about the dolphins, we were still hungry. So we threaded our way through the carnival like atmosphere of Timbuktu and made our way to my new favorite restaurant ... The Desert Grill!

The Desert Grill Restaurant at Busch Gardens. If You Don't Eat Here, Something Is Wrong With You. ~.^This used to be the Oktoberhaus. A German themed eatery with the best Black Forest cake you will ever eat, live polka bands, and literal dancing in the aisles.

Now, it is more in keeping with the whole African theme ... on the outside, at least. Inside is good, ol' American-style food, live floor shows, and chamber music when the floor shows aren't going on.

Seating is casual at long trestle tables with small benches. You go through a line and pick out the foods you want, almost buffet style, though servers are there to serve the hot foods. Then you pay for it, and tote it back to your table on a tray.

The food ... mmmm-mmmm ... the food. I had Grilled Chicken with Fettuccine Alfredo. It ran me about eight bucks, but it was a heaping plate full. And, the chicken wasn't some scraggly, thin piece of poultry. It was a thick, full breast of chicken grilled to juicy perfection. I also got a pickle. Not some dark green anemic from-a-jar pickle. Oh, no. This was a huge, almost 6 inch long (pre-sliced), near two inch thick delight of green dilliness. *slurp slurp*

But the best part, oddly enough, was the breadsticks. Best. Breadsticks. Ever.

I could have made a meal just out of those breadsticks. They were baked to perfection; golden brown, lightly buttered, a hint of garlic, paprika, and other spices. Soft, warm, and slightly chewy, I literally have had dreams about those breadsticks since then. Talking about them has made me hungry.

Yes. They were THAT good. Breadsticks.

Tyler got the same thing I did, though he said the chicken was bland. This is because if chicken has no breading or honey mustard on it, he doesn't believe it's real chicken. Tim got spaghetti, and he ate the whole portion of it. Quite a feat for him. Mom got a meatball sandwich, and she claimed it was the best meatball sandwich she has eaten in a long, long while.

There are other foods there; salads that looked so tasty you could feel the the lettuce crunching in your mouth by looking at it, other sandwiches piled with meat so high you need a skewer to hold them together as a mere toothpick would not suffice, and desserts so decadent you teeth began to rot just by ogling them.

If it were not for the lousy $9 parking fee, and the fact my mom cannot walk that far thus requiring a mobile scooter, I'd eat there quite often.

Enough about food. No snack carts on this picture train, and I don't want you falling off raving in hunger.

I showed you ride shots of Rhino Rally, but I didn't show you any animals from that adventurous, epic journey.

Unfortunately, you won't see many either. =/

The truck ride was so bouncy, so jouncy, that taking a clear shot was about as easy as picking your nose with a spoon. You can dig and dig, and you might strike gold, but it'll be a mess and probably painful.

Okay, that was gross, and there was no pain involved taking photos on Rhino Rally (except my poor knee that kept hitting the door hinge on every jolt). But, they were fairly blurry, and only a few came out mostly unscathed.

The first was an African elephant. Several shots were taken of him, but only one came out well.

African Elephant ButtThis will be an ongoing theme with my animal shots from here forward. I think the animals were trying to tell me something. =/

There also was a Black Rhino habitat we drove through, but we only saw one, just as we were leaving the enclosure. The bugger was lazing in the shade of a small bluff, languidly watching us as we jostled by. I got lucky in that I only took one shot of him (and it came out well), and that he wasn't mooning me. Though it -was- a rearward profile.

Lazy Black RhinoYou may have to look close to see him. Even though he is a Black Rhino, he is very dusty from rolling on the ground to cool off, and he almost blends in with the orangey-brown rocks behind him.

Shortly after, we drove through a crocodile enclosure. Right through the water! Of course, there was a very visible fence angling out towards where they presumably were. I didn't see any. I was on the opposite side of the truck from where they were supposed to be, but even far out in their lake, I saw nothing.

There was a freakin' huge one in a glass enclosure near Rhino Rally that I snapped a pic of after we left the area however. He's hard to see well, as the glass and water distorted his profile, but you can still see how huge he was.

Big, Honkin' CrocThere were two more animals I got clear shots of while on Rhino Rally.

One is some striped deer-like animal I cannot recall the name of. Impala? Antelope? I'm leaning towards antelope. It might some sort of small buffalo. I really cannot recall.

Showing Me What He REALLY Thought of MeEither way, it's another butt shot. A blurry butt shot. It gives you an idea of what the other, blurrier pics must look like. =/

I swear the animals all had an early morning meeting before the park opened and decided that day was Ass Day, or something. *sigh*

The final animal I got a good shot of while on Rhino Rally was the elusive brown-maned, female Boogerdigger.

A Little Deeper and She'll Hit OilAaaahhh, now my previous nose picking comment makes much more sense, doesn't it. ~.^

Now, to be honest, she may not have been actually digging in her nose. She may merely have been scratching it. Inside. with her finger nail. Repeatedly.

In her defense, it was hot and dusty in the area, and I had swiped my own knuckles across my nose in an attempt to quell the rising itchiness crawling around my nostrils. She just took it a step further and dug down to the root of the problem. >_>

And with that lovely image rattling around in your minds, I'll leave off this post. Tomorrow (or maybe Friday), I'll finish up with the pics of animals from my sojourn on the Serengeti Railway. There are thrills, spills, and even a few moments of unabashed "Aaaaaaaawww" to be had.

Until tomorrow.

And remember to take any belongings with you. This blog is not responsible for anything you leave behind. Because if you do, I'll sell it to pay for parking and go eat at the Desert Grill! Yum!

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 150 days is:


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Busch Gardens - The Animals, Part 1

The wait is over!

Finally you get to see pictures of animals from Busch Gardens.

Like the Serengeti Railway, this'll be a long ride, with a few stops along the way. And, not everything you see will be animals.

Hop aboard, find your seat, break out the Big Gulp cup, and settle in. Here we go!

The first place we ventured through, other than Gwazi, were the Bird Gardens. The Bird Gardens is a lush oasis of greenery, water, and, of course, birds.

We didn't visit everything. In fact, we didn't visit much, and there is a lot to see there. There are several animals habitats, an aviary walk-thru, several stages (where no shows were playing *sniff*), and the requisite gift shops and eateries.

One of the first habitats you come across are some brightly colored parrots lounging about on a gnarled, old tree. We watched them preen and squawk for several minutes. Magnificent birds. You could see intelligence in their eyes, and I swear they were as amused by the brightly hued biped mammals watching them as we were of them.

Polly Want a Churro?A short distance away is the flamingo habitat. Flamingos are a very recognizable icon of Florida. Hundreds of the elegant birds flocked around, and in, a small lagoon called Flamingo Island.

Flamingo Island at Busch GardensThese birds are not naturally pink. Their plumage gains this color from their diet of small crustaceans, usually brine shrimp. Well fed ones are bright pink, while an unhealthy flamingo might be pale pink to white, which is their natural color. These wading birds also stand on one leg for reasons unknown, though it is speculated it conserves body heat. I say they don't like getting their feet wet and dirty. ~.^

Pink Flamingos at Busch GardensMost of them had both feet firmly on the ground the day I visited. The ones who didn't seemed to be in the water, or sleeping.

Across from Flamingo Island are two butterfly topiaries that I thought looked pretty. So I took a picture of them. The image doesn't do them justice. They were much more brightly colored in person. There were other flower topiaries, but people kept rudely interposing themselves between me and my intended shot. Most of them so they could take their own photos. I'm lucky I got this one, as some obvious foreign tourists blithely walked in front of me just as I took this shot. Fortunately, I could crop them out.

Butterfly Topiary at Busch GardensThe Hospitality House is located in the bird Gardens, too. You can buy a fresh brewed Anheuser-Busch beer here, and get some fresh baked pizza. Expensive pizza, and not very big.

When I was little, you used to be able to get free samples of the beer. Assuming you were of legal age, of course. My first taste of beer was here. My Grandfather made me drink some of his. I thought it was horrible stuff. Yuck!

We used to get some beverages (beer for adults, soda for kids), grab a snack from the snack bar, and relax on the huge wooden patio overlooking Koi ponds and the Flamingos. No longer, though. The wooden patio is gone, the koi ponds are now remote controlled boat paddocks, and the flamingos .. well you can still sort of see them. *sigh*

Hospitality House at Busch GardensIt is still a very beautiful and relaxing location, with plenty of shade and seating. I just pine for the days of yore, I suppose. I also miss the old Brewery Tour you could take before they closed that down. Except the stairs. I don't miss climbing those long, long stairs to get to it.

While wandering through the Bird Gardens, we came across a small water habitat filled with turtles. A keeper was cleaning their habitat, and using a broom to sweep green and black sludge fro the bottom of their mostly emptied pond. The turtles were all bunched up, except for one brave terrapin who was trying to make good an escape.

I think he saw too many Spider-Man movies.

Teenage Mutant Spider TurtleClose by, just before entering the Land of Dragons, is the Living Dragons habitat. All sorts of large reptiles were in this habitat. Even a very big Komodo Dragon. He was very close to the glass of his enclosure, and you really get a sense of the sheer massiveness of the beasts. His head was about the size of a small dog. He could probably eat a small dog in a few bites.

I even got him to say "Cheese!"

Smiling Komodo DragonThe kids even got to ride a Komodo!

Don't Try This at Home with Real Komodos!Okay, so it was a statue of a Komodo, but it was about the size of the one in the habitat. Those suckers are huge! Err, Komodos, not the kids. ^.^;;

I don't want to bore you to death with more pictures today, so we'll pull into the station here. The train leaves again tomorrow around this same time. See you then!

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 149 days is:


Monday, May 28, 2007

Postponed ... Again!

This time because, well, I'm being lazy.

Actually, I was up late last night (for me). It wasn't until around 1 AM that my head hit the pillows. When I awoke at 8 AM, my head was so stuffed up I couldn't tel lit apart from the pillows it was laying on.

I managed to drag my butt out to the couch where I promptly fell asleep again until noon. Then I helped get lunch ready.

My head is still throbbing; feels like it's full of wet cotton and banded with steel being slowly cranked tighter and tighter. I've taken some pretty strong pain meds, and will go unleash my soon to be addled self upon the unsuspecting World of Warcraft.

I did, at least, upload the 30+ pics i will eventually get posted for you to ooh, ahh, and mutter "We waited a week for this crap?" over.

So, enjoy your Memorial Day.

I'm going to kill digital beasties.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It Never Stops


I had planned on doing up my blog after lunch today. You know, all those animals shots from Busch Gardens? The ones I keep promising to put up, but never do?

Well, Mommie Dearest has decided that I am now going to take the boys out for haircuts. Then, to the library.

Okay, the library is my idea, as I promised them we'd go today assuming I wasn't sick or something. But I had planned on doing that around 4 PM. The library is only a few blocks away from Fantastic Sam's, where we go for their cuts.

It's 12:30 PM now. And we just finished eating. I get time to type and gripe because they do all the clean-up chores! muahahaha

I might ... *might* ... get the pics up today, sans my rambling anecdotes for each one. But that's not really fun. For me. You probably want to just see the pics and not read my drivel.

Then again, once we get back, I may decide to relax and kill a few hundred cold-eye basilisks in WoW. They have something I want. And they have yet to give it to me. I shall hunt them to extinction, ripping out their squishy eyes, intact spines, large tails, and curved claws, until they bequeath unto me at least one cold basilisk eye!

Drat! I hear the muffled grumbles of disconsolate boys. They must be done with their chores and grousing about getting their hair shorn. Muahahaha

They'll thank us at camp when it's 95 degrees in the shade.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 147 days is:


Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Complicated Post

I got to spend the morning in the grocery store filling up a cart worth of regular food and another full of kids-going-to-summer-camp food.

Lunch meat, bread, cheese, carrots, juice pouches, cookies, crackers, apples, pears, cheese sticks, fruit leather, fruit cups, chips, pretzels, napkins, snack baggies, sandwich baggies, and 2-gallon Zip-locs to put it all in everyday.

I was not feeling too well by the time I got home. I had not eaten, not taken my diabetic pill, was hot, was sweaty, was breathing hard from the hot, pollen filled air, and to top it all off ... I couldn't go!

Yeah, that kind of couldn't go.

It's a switch from my usual blow-me-off-the-bowl action my meds typically give me.

Therefore, the Busch Gardens Animals post gets postponed until another day.

In it's place, in honor of my current condition (and in hopes it helps with it), I bring you a video of Weird Al Yankovich's parody of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated".

The actual title of this song is "A Complicated Story", but most everyone calls it "Constipated".

And the song didn't help.

Even if I did laugh my head off.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 146 days is:


Friday, May 25, 2007

Jurassic Fart (or, What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs)

Kids are out for the summer today, and unbeknown to me, Mom decided today was the day we were going through their drawers and closets to separate school clothes from play clothes from dress clothes, and come up with five camp clothes outfits.


So, you get farts ...

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 145 days is:


Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Is a Mud Puppy?

Necturus maculosus (Mud Puppy)

Mud puppies are a family of aquatic salamanders. [cite]

They live in shallow water, like lakes, ponds, and streams, and eat crayfish, snails, worms, and insect larvae. A Mud puppy breathes through gills, but can absorb oxygen through its skin. Sometimes one can be found on the surface of the water, or even outside of the water. They are also considered amphibians.

They have two sets of legs, front and rear, which allow them to move very slowly across land, often to a better water source.

I don't know if you can eat one, but I'm not sure I'd want to try.

Hawkinurus russellus (Mud Puppy)Mud Puppy belongs to a family of land-dwelling mammalian bipeds (and one canine quadruped).

This Mud Puppy lives near Ann Arbor, Michigan, and eats almost anything in its carnivorous diet. Mostly Sonic. Mud Puppy breathes through his nose and mouth, and can absorb M&Ms and Pez for extra energy. Sometimes Mud Puppy can be found on the Internet on a blog or on a weekly vlog. Mud Puppy is usually considered a mammal.

He has one set of legs, blindingly white, which allow him to move very slowly across land, often to an open fast food joint.

I don't know if you can eat one, but I'm not sure I'd want to try.

The cholesterol in it alone might kill you.

Busch Gardens - The Rides, Part 2

Got your beverage of choice? Hit the bathroom before you settled down to read this long, long post? Informed your friends and relatives where you will be in case they think you've gone missing?


When last we left, we were heading towards the Desert Grill Restaurant and Theater for lunch.

It was a lengthy walk with little to see but an overhead skyride and a wall where a future attraction was going in. I've no clue what it is yet. Peeks through the slatted fence and underbrush showed only a cleared, sandy field and piles of unidentifiable construction materials.

Oh, and one hard-hatted fellow scratching his behind.

Little did I know that small visual would signify a trend in many of my animal shots ... coming soon in another post!

I'll also talk about the Desert Grill in detail in a different post, but for now, it has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants. You can see a show, listen to music, and eat great food at a reasonable price. Sure beats fried junk on a stick from the various kiosks, or the more expensive Crown Colony House Restaurant.

Anyhow ... after eating, relaxing, cooling off, and drying out, we once again went in search of the elusive train ride for my mother. This time, the closest station was the Nairobi station. Not too far away, but between us and it was Rhino Rally.

Rhino Rally is a part safari, part adventure, part water ride. I'd never been on it, and it was one of two things I absolutely wanted to do while at Busch Gardens. (The other was Katonga, which we missed ... because of the train, but I'll talk about that later. If I remember. hehe)

The line for Rhino Rally was very short, and Mom decided to give it try. How bad could a ride in a truck be, after all?

Rhino Rally's EntranceBefore we threaded our way through the turnstiles, a congenial staff member intercepted us and very politely, very tactfully, and very trepiditiously informed us that "large sized" park patrons often had trouble fitting in the smallish seat or using the seat belts. He offered to allow us a private "seat fitting" on a recently returned vehicle that had unloaded. This way no one but we and staff would see if there was a size-fit problem, thus sparing us any embarrassment in front of other park goers. Plus, I think it also helped them as we would not hold up the loading line trying to wriggle into the cramped seating.

The poor guy was nervous (and was as big as us), but we laughed and said sure. His relief was palpable, and we followed, cracking size jokes and laughing, as he led us to our fateful butt test.

The seats were pretty small. I expected bench seats with seat belts, like the Safari ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom has. But while the seat was technically a bench seat, it was broken into 4 separate seats by a 2 inch wide, foot or so tall, barrier. The actual seating areas were maybe 16 inches wide. Likely less.

The first and third row, left side seats next to the entry doors, were equipped with extendable seat belts. So we tried those. I had a harder time squeezing into the truck and seat due to the confinement of the roof and cramped leg area more than my blubber butt squishing down into the seat. The seat belt also was a non-issue.

They had us get out and led us to the front of the line, where we caught the next truck and had to redo the contortion act to squish in again. Then we were off!

The truck was an actual gas vehicle, with a live driver; not on a track. The road was bumpy, jarring, and made taking good pictures difficult. Even at the stately 7 miles per hour we were traveling. Had I not been on an end seat, I don't think I'd have gotten shots of any use. As it was, out of the 20 or so I took, very few were usable.

We first rumbled through the elephant and rhino enclosures. I'm sure there were safety features in place other than the thin wooden fences, but I couldn't see them. The ride designers did a great job at hiding and obscuring them from view. Err, the safety stuff, not the animals. Though most of them were hiding in the shade and difficult to see.

The crocodile enclosure was a little more obvious in its safety features. The truck drove through a few feet of water with the crocs only a yard or so away (presumably, I saw none from my side of the truck), a steel mesh fence, angled away from the vehicle, kept the scaly predators from deciding the fleshy meat bags in the metal tin were tasty treats.

Shortly after, disaster struck.

We were crossing a pontoon bridge when a flash flood rampaged down the small river and ripped the bridge apart. Our poor truck was stuck on a small span of the pontoons as we swirled away down the river!

Rhino Rally's Pontoon Bridge/RaftOf course it was a carefully designed scenario, and not very exciting as it occurred. I think a glitch happened and the water that was supposed to rush out at us never did. We sort of sat there on the bridge as the previously glib driver-guide faltered through the spiel about the raging river, flash floods, and the previously lost Rally truck before us.

Eventually our little raft separated from the bridge and we gently floated away. We did swirl, however, as this part of the ride was on a track, but the effect was diminished by the rather placid waters.

We floated along, listening to the patter of the driver, watching the peaceful foliage and artfully designed rock gorges, spinning gently along the semi-hidden track.

Rafting in a Rhino Rally TruckAt one point, a small waterfall loomed in our path. It seemed certain we would be inundated by the quickly falling stream. But, at the last moment, the raft spun and we slipped around behind the miniature torrent, sparing us from the once certain deluge.

Rhino Rally WaterfallWell, sparing all but those in the rear right of the truck. They do get wet. Muahahahaha!

Waterfall at Rhino RallyPast the waterfall, we spied several indications of damage from our phantom flash flood; broken boats, shattered bridges, and floating wreckage. We even spied the rescue truck sent out to find us. But who was going to save them?

Rescuing the Rescuers on Rhino RallyEventually we fetched up against another shattered bridge, and with a little effort, crawled up the nearby embankment and returned to base camp; safe, sound, and with a new respect for the unpredictable rivers of Africa ... even the invisibly unpredictable rivers.

Back out front of the ride, the kids decided to try their hand at driving one of the Rally trucks.

See What Happens When I Let Them Drive?As you can plainly see, they quickly became mired in some quicksand after narrowly missing the park guests on their left. They leaped to safety before the car sank any further and we dashed away to avoid park security!

At least they didn't kill anyone. ~.^

Finally, we headed toward the train station, and as luck would have it, the Serengeti Railway was rounding the corner and coming into view.

Serengeti RailwayWe hurried to the station gates. Or, we tried to.

People are so oblivious to others, I had to literally body check some of them out of the way so my Mom could ride through the little gate on her mobility cart. Excuse us didn't work. Gently trying to press by didn't work. Even the sad, squeaky little horn on the motorized buggy she rode didn't work. But when someone with fat hips and the will to violently swing them slams into you, you move. *snicker*

The train was just pulling in as mom rolled through the gate.

Serengeti RailwayThe train is pretty standard, as theme park trains go. A small, faux steam engine pulls a line of cars made up of rows of long bench seats, open on either side. But Busch goes the little bit extra for their disabled guests.

The last car has ramps which fold down and lower to the station deck, allowing disabled persons with wheelchairs, or power chairs, to ride onto it and be lifted into the car. A forward and rearward facing bench allow the disabled's companions to ride along with them. The front half of the car has regular seating, as well.

There are three stops on the Serengeti Railway; Nairobi, Congo, and Stanleyville stations. The best route is Nairobi to Congo, as you travel through the Serengeti plains and can view many animals you'd otherwise only see from the skyride, or an extra charge safari ride in large, open bed truck. I shot many pictures of animals, but you'll have to wait to see those in another post! (I'm so mean)

A round trip on the train takes about 35 minutes. The Serengeti portion, as I said, is the most worthwhile. The Congo to Stanleyville, and Stanleyvill to Nairobi allow you to see some rides and other areas of the park, but mostly you wend your way through small spaces of fences and shrubbery that block most of the views of anything. You can catch glimpses of some rides as they tower over you, and you do trundle under a portion of SheiKra. But mostly I contented myself by looking past the bushes and razor wire fences out to the streets of civilization only a score of feet away.

It is pretty amazing how close the park is to apartment buildings, businesses, restaurants, and such. Unless you are on the train, or at the top of one of the rides, you really don't notice it and feel as if you are truly removed from normal life. Busch packs a huge amount of entertainment and attractions in a relatively small, limited space.

While on the Serengeti Railway, I got great shots of two of the parks coasters: ShieKra and Montu.

SheiKra you read about yesterday, but I offered only small glimpses of its total look. Here you can really appreciate the loops and dives, as well as it's towering height. And, you get an added bonus of some giraffes loping around in the foreground! This is one of my favorite shots of the day. (I will admit to adding the blue, cloudy sky into the shot as I cropped and cleaned it up. The greyish white sky it originally had was very boring looking. hehe)

SheiKra as Seen from the Serengeti RailwayMontu is in the Egypt section of Busch Gardens, and is one of my favorite coasters ever. And I've ridden many in my younger days. Montu is an inverted roller coaster. It was once the world's tallest and fastest inverted coaster, but not any longer. The coaster wars can be brutal. Montu still holds the record of the most inversions (loops) on an inverted coaster with seven.

I miss riding it.

Montu as Seen from the Serengeti RailwayYeah, I added sky in this one too. You couldn't really see the coaster as well against the greyish sky that was rapidly rolling in over Tampa that day. I wanted to go the Egypt section where Montu is located, but by Mom was wearing out, and we were trying to make it back to the Nairobi station ni time to get to the last showing of Katonga. We didn't make it. *sigh*

Another day, then.

I also wanted to do a skyride trip, but I had to settle for taking a shot of one of the turning points as we rode the train. *double sigh*

The SkyrideYou can see how grey the sky looks in this shot, and why I slipped a prettier blue one in the others. ~.^

Thus ends my pictorial safari through the Rides of Busch Gardens.

Tomorrow or this weekend, I'll do up a post with pics of all the great animals and other sights. Some pretty cool stuff to see awaits you!

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 144 days is:


Help Hit the Mud Puppy!

Help Mud Puppy reach his goal of 50k hits by next weekend!

Go visit Mud Puppy's blog and rack those hits up! He's at 48,832 as I write this. Not only is Mud Puppy's blog a good read, but I wanna win his 50k Hit Contest! *grin*

So if you go visit, leave Mud Puppy a note I sent you.


Mud Puppy Mud Puppy Mud Puppy Mud Puppy Mud Puppy

Ok, that's 5 entries for a dedicated post, and 10 more driect links to his website, for a total of 25 entries. hehehehehe (Yeah, yeah, Russ, I know it's technically only 5, or maybe 7 entires for this post, but I'm trying to be funny here. Sheesh!)

Mud Puppy 2 more! Wheeee!! ~.^

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Busch Gardens - The Rides, Part 1

I got all Busch Gardens photos resized, cropped, and cleaned up.I also added borders to all of them and shrank them to fit on my blog at 400px width. I think most of them came out fantastic!

All images were taken with a Kodak DC240 iZOOM Digital Camera. It's an old camera; 4 years old at least. It is only a 1.3 Megapixel, too. That explains the blurriness of many shots I took.

Well, I'm not gonna blame my shaky hand, am I?

Onto the ride pics! Each pic will have a description note if you mouse hover over it.

It'll be a long post, so grab a cup of coffee ... or an empty Big Gulp cup. ~.^

The first ride we hit was Gwazi, a wooden, dueling roller-coaster. That means it has two tracks where the coasters "race" and come with mere inches of each other at spots. No loops on this one, but a ton of banks and hills. Plus that awesome clackety-clickyness you get only with a wooden coaster.

I didn't ride it. The attendants were non-English speakers, and predominantly Asian. I don't understand why there wouldn't be clear English speaking attendants, but ... *shrug*

They didn't listen to me when I said I wanted to ride with my youngest on his very first roller-coaster ride. (He turned 10 last Sunday). He had already been seated by them while I walked to the rear where the bigger seats (for my bigger butt) were located. they just stared blankly at me and jabbered in half Asian, half pidgin English. I got frustrated and stood on the off-loading platform until the train came back around.

Tim rode with his older brother, at least. And he said he liked it, even though he was scared. They rode the Lion track. Next time they'll ride the Tiger track, and hopefully I can ride, too.

GwaziWandering a bit, looking at the animals in the Bird Gardens and other sights (coming soon to a post near you!), we found ourselves in the Land of Dragons. A whimsical place geared for the younger kids. Gentle rides, a mini-mini-roller coaster, and a huge play fort several stories high tempted little kids to enjoy themselves. Mine asked to go play on the fort. Truth be told, I would have been tempted as well, were i not physically incapable of squeezing through most it! Maybe next time I'll let them romp through it.

We did stop to take a few shots at a cute photo-op station.

The Yokes on ThemeOur intended goal, after leaving the Land of Dragons, was to catch a ride on the Serengeti Railway. The Stanelyville Train Station was directly across, almost nestled within, SheiKra, North America's only true dive coaster. Throngs of those school-trip hellions were blocking easy travel, so we ended up missing the train. The next wasn't due for 20 minutes, so we debated on riding SheiKra instead.

Tim didn't want to test his courage on the rather intimidating steel coaster. His brother Tyler, who had ridden it the previous year on a summer camp trip, claimed he didn't want to ride it alone. Mom was a definite no-brainer; if she could manage to get onto the ride (HA!) the force stresses would probably kill her. As for me, there was no way my rear end was going to fit into the ride's seats.

A demo version of the upcoming floorless ride car was on display, so I got a very clear look at the seats. Twiggy (or Kate Moss for you children of the 90's) would have been hard pressed to fit her butt into the plastic torture devices they called seats.

I would have ridden it if I could have, though. *sigh*

Instead, tired of walking, we decided ot watch SheiKra for a little bit, while Mom rested in the shade of the Stanelyville station. I walked around getting a few shots of the ride.

SheiKra has two vertical drops, the biggest being a 200 foot high, 90 degree straight drop down. There is a Himmelman loop, and some great banked curves, as well as a splash down section where passersby could get soaked. The soak area was pretty well demarked by pools of water and hordes of sopping wet, screaming teenagers.

SkeiKra's 200 Foot, 90 Degree Straight Down Drop

One of SkeiKra's Banked CurvesI wanted to get a shot of SheiKra's splash down. So I angled myself where it was only slightly damp on the ground and got the camera ready to take a shot of the ride car splashing down, and it's attendant plume of water. My kids kept edging closer, despite my warnings that they'd get soaked. Typically, they ignored my admonishments, and sidled even deeper into the wet zone. I smiled to myself and let them go. They'd learn soon enough.

Shortly a car caromed around the embankment and dove into the splash down, sending up a gigantic spray of water and inundating the area my kids thought was safe. HaHa! I was safely back, with only a gentle cooling mist of water drifting down over me as I took my shot.

SheiKra's Splash DownAfter I stopped laughing at Tim and Tyler's shocked expressions, we gathered up a chortling Mom and headed towards one of the oldest attractions in Busch Gardens ... Stanleyville Falls.

Stanely Falls Log Flume EntranceStanleyville Falls is an old-time log flume ride. Lots of splashes, several drops, and a long, long line. This was the longest line we saw all day. A true testament to the staying power of this venerable water ride.

I did ride this one as it was one of my favorite rides dating back to when I was little (25+ years ago). It was a little tricky for me to get in, and out, but it was not uncomfortable. Plus my butt could fit in the seats^.^;;

It's amazing how fast you go on the last, big drop. The splash was pretty big, but I only got my left sock wet. My shorts got wet on the right leg, but that was from an errant side splash as we sped through the twists and turns of the rapids section.

Each drop has a little employee station, and at the first drop the attendant was apparently sleeping. I yelled "Sweet Dreams" as we rode by and she snapped upright with wide eyes, knocking over her huge, plastic souvenir cup of whatever liquid it was. Serves her right.

It was approaching noontime by now, and we left Stanelyville and headed towards Timbuktu and our lunch destination.

But that part of the story is for tomorrow. This is pretty long now as it is, and I don't want to lose all my work again. ^.^;; (I wrote in notepad this time and copied over to Blogger ... I learned my lesson!)

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 143 days is:


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blogger Must Die

Blogger's new and improved system to auto-save posts to drafts just destroyed my post I had spent the last few hours working on.

I'm so angry right now.

I'll try to redo it tomorrow as it was long, full of pictures.

Usually I take periodic copies saved to Notepad, but I mistakenly put my trust in blogger to do the saves for me. Grrrrrrr

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tattooed Fruit

Ever seen an apple riding a Hawg? How about a cucumber rocking out on stage? An avocado eXtreme snowboarding?

Well, you won't see your fruits and veges doing any of that, but you may see them sporting tattoos. No, not pics of flaming skulls, tribal bands, or hearts with Mom in the middle.

If the FDA approves it, we may soon start seeing our once benign food sporting laser imprinted tattoos with expiration, point of origin, brand names, or any sort information on them. This could mean the end of those annoying little polyvinyl stickers no one can peel off without gouging a divot from your fruit. [cite]

The laser only penetrates the very top layer of skin, removing pigmentation, and leaving a legible imprint visible.

It does not damage the product or reduce shelf life, some claim. Others state decay first occurs at the lasered site, and that it gives easier access to germs to infiltrate the produce. Either way, it is edible, as no inks or polyvinyl is used, just a slight bit less skin on the tattooed parts.

I'm all for it.

I cannot stand those little stickers. If I'm not ripping holes in my tomato trying to get them off, I'm forgetting about it and choking it down with a bite off my apple.

Too, it is hoped that the indelible tattoos will help provide a more fool-proof alternative to product tracing than stickers, which can be peeled off. The hope is to more quickly track down where contaminated produce came from.

Some produce won't be able to use the laser etching; potatoes, cantaloupe, and other rough skinned produce. So, some stickers will still be around.

If this gets approved by the FDA, I foresee actual advertising on the produce within a few short years.

Nike swooshes on your peaches, anyone?

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 141 days is:


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Busch Gardens - The Day After

The only reason I am able to blog today is because my fingers are about the only part of me that aren't sore, stiff, or otherwise engaged in sending electrical impulses of pain and discomfort shooting along the nerves of my bruised and battered body.

The trip was one of great fun, extreme irritation, even a little anger and thrills mixed in.

It started out fun enough; we played a prank on the kids.

It was more cruel than I would have wished, but my mother upped the ante on it before I woke up, so I played along with gritted teeth.

The gag was we did not tell the kids we were planning to go to Busch Gardens. They had no clue. What we did decided to tell them was we had a doctor's appointment at the Shriner's hospital they visit for their idiopathic toewalking. (Idiopathic basically means "arising from an unknown cause", not that they are idiots, which they can be). The hospital is almost directly next to Busch Gardens. You can see it from the top of the taller rides.

My mother, however, took it a step further (no pun intended).

Both kids have gone through therapy, casting (plaster casts on their legs for 6-8 weeks), and braces. They still toewalk, though not quite as bad. The final alternative is to either allow the toewalker to hopefully grow out of it, or for minor surgery. This involves cutting the Achilles tendon.

Well, my oh-so-loving mother decided in her infinite, and infernal, wisdom, she would tell them we were going to the Shriner's Hospital ... for their leg surgery!

The kids took it well. On one hand, they were happy to be missing school. On the other hand, they were nervous and scared about surgery.

I think they suspected something else was up because even though I had loaded most of the stuff for the trip into the back of the SUV without them seeing (with the tarp pulled over it), I gave them new baseball caps and was bringing my camera. I told them the hats were to cheer them up and I wanted to take pictures while we were there. The topper (again no pun intended) was mom bringing her famous floppy hat with her. The kids know she only brings that if she plans on being outside for any length of time.

We told them to wear comfortable clothes and shorts, and to bring their non-school shoes. This wasn't out of the ordinary because previous trips to Shriner's included them wearing shorts so the nurses and doctors could more readily see their legs for tests or therapy. The shoes threw them, though.

Driving to Busch was not an issue as it was the exact same route as to Shriners, just one street over. So I pretended I forgot which street we needed and turned down the one with Busch's entrance. Mom and I "argued" a minute over the correct route and during this "argument" I made another wrong turn into Busch Garden's parking area.

I knew the jig was up, but good ol' mom gamely tried to play it up more about how she hoped they would let us turn around and that we wouldn't have to pay a parking fee to do it.

The kids knew better by then.

You remember those commercials for that toothbrush in which they say brushing teeth would be easy if you had a flip-top head? The cartoon guy opens his mouth and his head horizontally splits in two like a hinge. Well, the kids were grinning so big they looked like that guy.

Parking was nine bucks! I was shocked. The last time I visited (6-7 years previous) it was only five dollars. Oh, well, not too bad I suppose. But it does put a damper on my plans of simply riding out there for a few hours of rides or shows every now and then. Now I have to make sure I bring ten dollars for lousy parking. =/

The good thing was since my mother is disabled, we got to park literally right up front. We were in the first and closest row to the park entrance. Still, it was an arduous journey for my mom to the front gate.

Especially since we now had to stand in line to wait for the gates to open at 9:30am. It was only about 15 minutes wait, and there were copious benches, planters, and odd things you could sit on. Unfortunately, all the benches were full, so my mom ambled over to an unoccupied planter and took up residence there.

The kids and I waited in line.

It was then I noticed something. Something that sent chills of dread racing down my spine.

Most of the others waiting to get in were kids. Kids in groups from various schools, camps, organizations, and even just clumps of free-range kids.

The park was overrun by kids in colored t-shirts emblazoned with their group's name. Running, screaming, laughing, annoying, rude, and antagonistic kids with no sense of personal space, politeness, courtesy, or volume control.

Their chaperons were small oases of befuddled and embarrassed calm within the raging maelstrom of adolescent self-indulgence. Very few chaperons tried to quell the rising storm of sound and chaos. They knew the cause was hopeless, the attempt futile, and they likely feared the ridicule and pranks that was sure to be forthcoming if they so much as opened their mouths to correct the awful behavior.

I pitied them.

I only had two monsters to control.

Eventually we made it through the turnstiles where we slipped our Fun Passes under a laser scanner and our index fingers into an optical finger print reader.

Our first stop? To pick up the ECV. (Electrical Convenience Vehicle) Mom's go-buggy. The object with which she'd never make it 10 minutes in the park.

The location to pick up this wonderful vehicle of self-propulsion was, of course, several shop fronts down and hidden.

We found it with some directions from helpful park employees, and spent five minutes filling out forms which I had previous filled out online. I asked why I had to fill out the forms again, couldn't they print them off so I could sign? They guy behind the counter smiled grimly and said he wished he could, but the online forms were the dundant forms, and these were the redundant forms.

Funny guy.

Several signatures, and a 10 minute course on correct and safe ECV operation, and we were on our way!

To the bathrooms.

This was to be a typical pattern of the day.

See a sight, hit the bathroom. Ride a ride, hit the bathroom. Eat lunch, hit the bathroom. Hit the bathroom, hit another bathroom.

Diabetes will do that to you.

Credit where credit is due ... there were copious restroom facilities, comfortably placed and kept nigh sparkling clean. Even water fountains were in abundant supply. Some even had cold water! Though you find very quickly that while cold water is seemingly more refreshing, cool water is much more physically regenerative.

The weather, too, was pleasant. It was warm and sunny, without being overly hot. The temp was around 85°F, give or take a few degrees, and there was a gentle breeze blowing from a cold front which was making it's way across the state. Too, there were copious benches to relax on, plenty of shaded areas, and the aforementioned abundant water fountains and restrooms.

And more snack and drink kiosks than you could shake a swizzle stick at.

A bottle of Dasani, the 20 ouncers, ran $2.59 each. Bottled soda was a little less, but drinking carbonated sugar water in warm weather with even mild exertion may seem refreshing, but you'll be thirstier, more tired, and in need of more fluids a short time later than if you just not had anything. We stuck to bottled water, and refilled them at the fountains as needed.

We did splurge on Lemonade Slushies, however. At $2.99 each they were reasonable in price for the amount, very refreshing, and probably the best tasting lemonade slushies I'd ever had. The problem was the sugar in them. Made us thirsty and sluggish a short time later.

I promised pictures, and I took quite a few. Some came out great, others came out not so great.

More than I care to speak of were ruined by those animals amok called school trip kids. If they weren't blithely walking in front of my shots, they were rudely bumping into me. If I wasn't being jostled, they were crowding in front to see whatever it was I was keen on snapping a picture of. More than a few were so brazen they would see me (or others) raise their camera for a shot then rush in to ruin it with wild antics, obscene gestures, or "funny" faces.

I wish I'd brought a Taser with me.

I'm fairly kind and gentle, and I'd like to think generous, but I would have corralled and electro-shocked about 50% of the kids in the park that day.

Tomorrow I'll post some of the better pics after I've cleaned them up, cropped them, and whatever else I feel like doing to them.

Right now the blog seems about as long as my trip, so I'll end it here and go soak my feet some more, apply ointment to my prickly heat, pop a few Tylenol for the various aches and pains, and maybe take a nap.

See you tomorrow! ~.^

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 139 days is:


Friday, May 18, 2007

Busch Gardens - 15 Minutes Before Leaving

I found myself with a little time to spare before we left for the short drive to Busch Gardens. Therefore, you may enjoy a well done video showing you SheiKra, North America's only dive coaster. Enjoy!

I also obtained a 512MB memory card for my camera. So expect lots of pictures in the next few days.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 138 days is:


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Busch Gardens - The Day Before

I've spent the entire morning running errands and getting things (partially) prepped for tomorrow's trip to Busch Gardens.

It's been a long time since I've visited there. At least 4½ years since the kids came to live with me. Plus the year or so before that when I was constantly sick with respiration problems. So, 6 years or so.

Since my last visit, they've added new rides: Gwazi, a dueling wooden coaster; Cheetah Chase, a wild mouse coaster; Pirates 4D, a comedic show with all sorts of sensory stuff; Rhino Rally, an off-road safari adventure including a river raft ride in the truck; and SkeiKra, vertical drop coaster that is going floorless (not until June, so it'll have it's floor when we go).

There are new shows, too. I am especially eager to see KaTonga. It is a 35 minute, Broadway-caliber stage show. Characters in costumes that look like real animals (sorta), singing, dancing ... think Lion King show and you've got the idea. There's also the Mirage Canteen musical show that looks interesting. Done in a 1940's style musical review. Should be cool.

Then, of course, are the animals. Tons of animal exhibits where you can get close to them ... sometimes as close as a pane of glass. A very, very thick, shatterproof, pane of glass, but a pane of glass nonetheless. And when I say tons, I means tons. A great exhibit is one with hippos who swim right next to the glass which is half submerged. Okay, the viewing chamber is half underground, but you know what i mean. There are lion and ape exhibits with similar glass viewing areas. Very cool!

Busch Gardens has tons of animals to see. You could spend most of the days just wandering the park, looking at the animals. I like the Serengeti Train ride. You get to see a lot of animals you couldn't easily see otherwise. The sky-ride is pretty good for that, too, but my mother will be using a mobility cart, and I don't think we'll be able to ride the ski-ride. Maybe a round trip or something. We'll see.

I wish we had more money to spend, because you can actually purchase special safari tours where you get to feed giraffes, or be a zookeeper for the day. Several price ranges for matching experiences, but ... we're close to tapped for entertainment funds before we start to dip into the bills' money. That's a strict no-no.

I was going to take pictures to post, but my digital camera (old as it is), seems to have misplaced it's memory card. It was only a 16MB card, and could hold about 30 or so decent quality images.

I looked for a replacement (and bigger memory) while at Wal-Mart picking up some fill-in shopping and fanny packs, but they didn't have what I was looking for. Plus, the employees were unusually unhelpful. Well, unknowledgable is more true. But if you don't know what you are talking about, especially if you work in the photography department, then you're also unhelpful.

I may hit Walgreen's down the road later today and price 512MB cards. If I can get one for around $20, I will.

Health-wise, let alone weight/size-wise, I won't be able to ride too many rides. The coasters are likely out unless they have bench seats. My seat won't fit in their seats. *sigh* Plus I'm not sure inversions will be too kind to my sinuses. The water rides should be okay; I know they are bench seats with drop bars. Well, Congo River Rapids might pose a problem, but I don't think it will.

Some flat rides, like the bumper cars, should be okay. I don't even know if they have flat rides any more. There used to be a ton; bumper cars, swings, crazy camel, sandstorm, pirate ship, carousel ... Guess, I'll see.

I'm going to play those rigged carnival games. I love playing those. Plus, now I don't have to carry a wad of sweaty, crumpled ones around. Busch has introduced a game card you buy and load money on. Now all I have to do is hand the card ot the bgame barker, he swipes it, and I play. It'll be great fo the kids, too. I can give them a card pre-loaded with the amount they may spend on games, and not worry about them spending their lunch or water money on games. >_> Same goes for me, too. hehe

There are some nice restaurants to eat at in the park, fancy to casual. With prices to match, I'm sure. We'll eat at the less expensive of the non-food stand places. Likely the Desert Grill.

The Desert Grill has tons of good food, at fairly reasonable prices. Spaghetti, pastas, steaks, ribs, chicken ... good eats all around. It used to be the OktoberHaus, with awesome German food and live polka band and shows. I used to love eating there as a kid. We'd get up and dance around in a polka line. Great fun!

It was right next to the Scorpion coaster and the Sandstorm flat ride, too. So you could go throw up every thing you just ate.

Well, time to go hit the laundry so we have clean clothes for tomorrow. Plus spares. Those water rides can soak you good. Or, maybe we'll need them after a ride on the Scorpion after eating at the Desert Grill. ~.^

Too, remember tomorrow will not have a post. This one is long enough to tide you over, I hope. hehe

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 137 days is:


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Prayer Request Update 5/16

Tek is back in the hospital with a high fever and low blood pressure which the doctors cannot find a reason for. Please keep him and his wife in your thoughts and prayers, that the doctor's can find whatever is causing the fever and BP drop.

Thank you all who have been keeping my friend in your prayers.

Laser Fart - Ep. 2 (w/ Jack Black)

Yes, Jack Black is indeed in this episode. The real guy. The guy from "School of Rock", "King Kong", and "Nacho Libre". Take a peek:

Laser Fart's choice of super-hero costume is odd, but by the charred "stain" on the butt of his bike shorts, we now know those lasers do some damage to textiles.

I'm not sure if the diatribe at the end of the episode is supposed to be part of the humor, or if it was meant as a real message. It was an interesting choice to end the episode, either way.

Oddly enough, I kinda like this super-hero parody show. There are more episodes available ... Do you, my discriminating readers, want to see more Laser Fart?

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 136 days is:


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Laser Fart

Farts. Must be a filler.

I was going to do a nice post today, but ended up running errands from 8am until now, which is ... 2pm. So I'm fairly wiped out. (No fart pun intended).

I decided that I would show a super-hero movie for those of you who missed seeing Spider-Man 3. Rumors are this guy will be in the fourth installment as Spidey's side-kick. Okay, not really, but it couldn't be worse than Sandman, Venom, and New Goblin. *sigh*

Good thing the lasers seem to coalesce outside his pants. Can you imagine the wardrobe bill this guy would have other wise? And, just throwing this out, if those are dry farts, I wonder what a wet one would be like?

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 135 days is:


Monday, May 14, 2007

Weekend in Review

I took the weekend off from blogging, as you may have noticed. In part because it was Mother's Day weekend, in part because I needed another break, in part because I was sick from the smoke in the area and chemical fumes at a skating rink.

This post is making up for lost time. It's long. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You may want to go pee before you start reading, too. The next rest stop is a few hundred words away, and I'm not pulling over. And no, you can't use the empty Big Gulp cup. That's just gross.

Buckled in? Good. Here we go.

One of the nice things that came about this weekend (aside from my best friend, Tek, getting out of the hospital!) was the arrival of my Busch Gardens Fun Cards!

Busch Gardens, Tampa - SheiKraBasically, you purchase a single-day admission and get a card which allows you to go back all year for free!

It wasn't cheap. A single day admission is $61.95, plus tax. For the four of us it totalled $270.11. Steep, when funds are limited.

But, since we live in Tampa, and can be at Busch Gardens at any time, any day, for the next year, within 15 minutes of leaving the house, it was a deal we couldn't pass up.

We get bored, have nothing to do, pop on down to the theme park, and ride a few rides, or watch one of the many shows. The kid's summer camp (another hefty expense) also makes a trip to Busch Gardens, and we won't have to pay extra since they can take their Fun Cards. Their schools, too, sometimes have trips out there, and with the Fun Cards, we'll only have to pay for the bus ride for them.

In the end, we'll save money. Okay, we'll break even with the normal costs we would have paid, but we'll be visiting more often.

Matter of fact, depending on the smoke situation, my youngest's birthday is Sunday and we will be breaking in the Fun Cards on a trip out to Busch Gardens for the day. Or as much of the day as my Mother can handle. (She's disabled, plus heat and humidity wipe her out. We'll be renting a go-buggy for her, though ... $35! Yipes!)

It'll be fun, and I'll try to take some digital shots to post.

The other great thing this weekend was Mother's Day. The kids and I got my mom three round puzzles. She loves doing puzzles and shaped ones, especially round ones, are her favorite.

I got them through Amazon, and they came last week, so we gave them to her early. Technically she had them finished before yesterday, but she loved them anyhow.

I also ordered her the Roots DVD set coming out May 22nd. She's been wanting this movie for a long time. It's one of her favorites. And, she'll likely watch it all in one sitting some lazy weekend. She does that with The Thornbirds, too.

Let's Go Outback TonightWe also went to Outback Steakhouse for lunch. (We call it dinner, because we eat the big meal in the middle of the day on weekends). Other than it being very hot and stuffy inside, the meal was fantastic! And not a little expensive, too.

Most restaurants (and grocery stores) try to keep the temperature cool. Cool, or cold, air triggers a subconscious need to eat, or supply yourself with, more food. Thus when a store or restaurant is nice and chilly, you may buy more groceries, or order more food. Like those impulse purchases at the checkout, or those high-calorie, over-priced desserts. (Mmmmm ... Chocolate Thunder Down Under. Of course, after I eat that, I experience the namesake later. ~.^)

Anyhow, I think they left it warm inside so that people who were coming would eat faster, and get out, thus freeing tables for more customers. Volume of total customers over quantity per seems to have been the goal. Because any other time I've been in there, it was nice and cool.

Psychological warfare by the restaurant. I feel so used.

The third fun thing this weekend happened later on Mother's Day.

Forget the 2004 Version, THIS Is the One You WantWe had mini-pizzas for dinner (supper) and watched one of the best movies ever, and one of my favorites ... the original Flight of the Phoenix.

I'm a sucker for three types of movies: superhero, zombie, and survival. Zombie and survival movies often are the same thing, but you know what I mean.

I got "Phoenix" a week or so ago from the Cube-O'-DVDs at Wal-Mart. You've seen it. The huge 5'x5'x5' black cube near the electronics department. Filled with low-priced DVDs on all the vertical sides, likely covered in boxes of candy as if a movie theater concession threw up on top of it. I love the Cube-o'-DVDs because lots of movies I like end up in there for around $5 each.

Anyhow, don't waste your time on the 2004 remake of this movie, even if it does have Dennis Quaid in it. (Actually, it is a fun movie, too, but the original is vastly superior).

I mean, how can you go wrong with James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, and Peter Finch? Drop them in a plane wreck in the middle of the Sahara Desert and you struck gold. Or, oil might be more appropriate.

I love the tension and drama in this film. The acting is great. You feel as if the desert is leaching your sanity away right along with the characters'. And, I love how you can visibly see them weaken, their skin dry and crack, their clothes weather as the long, hot days and freezing nights slowly roll by taking their devastating toll on the survivors.

It was the first time my kids had seen either version, and they liked it. Nothing blew up. No sexual innuendo involved. Very little cursing, and that was the 1965 kind of movie cursing. You get worse on Family-style comedy shows now-a-days. there are a few semi-graphic scenes ... blood dripping into a pool after one guy commits suicide, the slit throats of two characters after a failed attempt to deal with Arab raiders ... but even then you only see the aftermath, not the act.

All in all, a nice way to spend the day with the family.

Yet, I still found time to level my Shaman, Roflmoo, four levels in WoW! heh

Okay, here's the rest stop. You can get out, stretch your legs, take care of business, whatever.

Oh, and you're emptying that Big Gulp cup. I warned you.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 134 days is:


Friday, May 11, 2007

Quickie (No Farting, Promise)

Just a real quick post. No videos, no pretty pictures, no farts ...

I planned to post a recap of yesterday's events leading up to my breathing issue and hoarseness, but after I got home from taking the kids to school, I pretty much crashed out until about 1:30 PM. I woke up feeling not much better, but called Tek in the hospital to talk to him.

Tek is doing better. BP is still down, which is good. He is tired and worn out, but is on a CPAP machine to help him breath without sleep apnea at night. He says it is great! We spoke for about 15 minutes, but you could hear him weakening and begin to have trouble breathing. Luckily a nurse showed up for some nurse-y stuff and it gave the opportunity to break off the call so he could rest. (Of course, when he gets home and catches up on his blog reading he'll see this, but ... ~.^)

So there you have it. If my chest is still tight and my breathing raspy, I may not blog tomorrow or Sunday. I've been thinking of going to a weekday schedule anyhow. We'll see.

Take care everyone, and remember to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. You never know when something might take them from you.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 131 days is:


Thursday, May 10, 2007

eBay - Weird Al

The supposed highest bidder on the General Lee car from "The Dukes of Hazard" has welshed on his record, nearly $10 million bid.

I wonder how many bids turn out to be fake on eBay? Probably as many items posted for sale.

I admit I'm scared to buy off eBay. Even though I know people who buy and sell through eBay with no problems at all, I am still petrified to do it.

Anywho, Weird Al has a great song about eBay and someone made a video out of it. So, here you go! ~.^

UPDATE: Tek should be going home Friday. He'll be on medications and have some drastic changes to lifestyle to make (food, exercise, stress, etc.), but for now it doesn't appear as if any surgeries or other procedures are needed. Tek's wife wanted to thank everyone for their prayers for strength during this crisis and for guiding the doctors during the tests. Prayer for continued improvement and strength is still appreciated.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 130 days is:


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Updates 05/09

I received an e-mail from Tek's wife. The echo cardiogram was completed and found that Tek's heart was working at only 30%. Tomorrow he has the heart cath done and more will be determined from that.

Tek's blood pressure is down, and that is good, but he will be on BP and other heart meds the rest of his life.

The doctor told Tek's wife "1) He will get better at 50% heart capacity maximum. 2) He will remain the same at 30% heart function 3) He will get worse and be put on a heart transplant list and/or not get better and end up in heaven."

Please keep Tek and his wife in your thoughts and prayers.

I spent the day at the foot doctor and found out I have the beginnings of arthritis in my feet. Which explains the foot pain I have been getting. It can keep company with the arthritis in my knee, back, and hand. They can throw a party ... BYOT. Bring your own Tylenol!

I've put off doing the allergy tests due to lackaloot. I just don't have the money. Or a job. Which is how you get money. Or insurance. So, I'll deal with the sinus headaches, stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, and other ailments from allergies and keep using the Advair for bad breathing days. At least for now.

With my best friend in serious health trouble, it sure puts my own new, minor issues in perspective. =/

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 129 days is:


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Virus Alert - Weird Al

In honor of my best friend Tek, who is in the hospital with congestive heart failure, I am posting an animated music video created by David C. Lovelace for Weird Al Yankovich's "Virus Alert" off his newest album, "Straight Outta Lynnwood".

TekPhreak loves Weird Al as much as I do, and he is ... well, a tech freak. So this is a fitting tribute to him.

There is even a video game based on Al's "Virus Alert" and uses David Lovelace's art. It can be found here. The first 5 levels are free in a downloadable demo, then you gotta buy the next 20 levels, plus animated interludes. *sigh*

You also visit Weird Al's official Website. And, you can visit David Lovelace's website here.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 128 days is:


Monday, May 7, 2007

Prayer Request

My best friend in the world just went into the hospital for congestive heart failure.

You guys know him, too, sort of. He goes by TekPhreak and I occasionally show his more oddball podcasts and he also comments once in a while.

Tek and I have known each other since we were 9-years-old. That's back in 1980. We grew up together, laughed together, cried together. I branded him on his arm once playing with my backyard firepit and a broken hoe. We shot tennis balls out of soup cans duct taped together in that same back yard, from that same firepit. Flaming tennis balls. Launched over the fence, across the street, over the neighbor's house, past the canal, and into the scrub woods.

We had good times, and bad times. But we survived it all with our friendship stronger than anything I've ever known.

He is married to a great lady and has a good life with her. I know she is under a lot of stress and tension right now as she copes with her husband's serious and sudden ailment.

Please keep Tek and his wife in your thoughts and prayers as he undergoes several tests, including a heart cath over the next few days. I know they will appreciate it.


Marvel vs. DC

Well, I was going to give you guys something to look at besides my vague descriptions of my gastrointestinal difficulties. (It was going to be Spider-man farting, if I could find something). But I found these videos instead.

They're riffs on the Mac vs. PC commercials, and they are funny stuff. Have a look! (But give it time to load, there are 6 of them! Wohoo!)

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm a DC (Mac/PC Parody) #1

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm a DC (Mac/PC Parody) #2

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm a DC (Mac/PC Parody) #3

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm a DC (Mac/PC Parody) #4

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm Batman (Mac/PC Parody) #1

Hi, I'm a Marvel ... and I'm Batman (Mac/PC Parody) #2

You can also find these videos at ItsJustSomeRandomGuy's YouTube site. Check back there in case he does more of these great parody videos!

Whys and Whatfors

My apologies for no Sunday blog, and technically no real Saturday blog, either.

May 5th, Saturday, was the one year anniversary of when we adopted my nephews. Their mother was brutally murdered in the November of 2002, and after lengthy court battles to terminate the parental rights of their father (who is the prime suspect), we were able to adopt them last year.

We celebrated by going to a 9:15 AM showing of Spider-Man 3, followed by a nice lunch at Chili's and dessert at the Dairy Queen right next door. Then we went grocery shopping.

Okay, so food shopping is not quite the celebratory event most people do, but we needed to eat later this week.

By the time we got home, it was around 2PM. The kids went off to do their thing, Mom went off to do hers, and i was too worn out to think and write a blog. So I played WoW.

Sunday ... well, it was hectic all morning into the afternoon, and I was tummy ill and sore-throated all day. (Is sore-throated a word?) I decided to take Sunday off from blogging, as well. So I played WoW.

Which brings us to today. Up at 7 AM, get the kids fed and make sure they are ready for school, drive to the bus stop, home for my own breakfast (Honey Bunches of Oats, Yum!), then ... snnnrrrrrkkkkkkk ... I went back to bed until my aunt called my cell at around 10:45 AM. I might still be asleep if she hadn't called.

Well, that's not entirely true. More tummy issues issues today. I've had to stop writing and hit the bathroom four times so far in the last hour. I hate my diabetic pills that do this to me, but it is honestly better than feeling like I do if I miss taking them for a day.

So there you have it.

Oh, and my mini-review of Spider-Man 3? Go see it. Spider-Man 2 was superior, but this one is good, if muddled with too much going on and too many coincidences. (Where the hell did the Osborn butler come from, just in time to lay some important information out there? and more important, does he hang out with Alfred Pennyworth on his days off?)

I'll catch up on the Penny doubled daily thing tomorrow. Right now the porcelain God is calling for a fifth meeting. *sigh*

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Busy Day, Might Be No Post

... other than this one. I'll explain later. Enjoy your day!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Funny Church Signs (Sorta)

How many times have you been driving down the road when you suddenly spy a church billboard sign with some witty (or otherwise) saying? There are entire websites devoted to showcasing the more humorous, oddball, or shocking signs encountered across America. Or Google "funny church signs" on Google Image search for a large selection.

Today, I bring you four never-before-seen church sign sayings.

A Dark Day for Religion
Just Knuckle Under and Go Already
Seven Days Without Prayer Makes One Weak?
And my most favorite of all:

Wow! Good Thing I Visit!

Okay, none of these are real signs. Well, the signs are real, but the text on them was done using a generator from this website. It's amazing how many blogs and websites post these generated images as being real. The people who created the generator did a great job with it.

Though, on three of the 4 images above, I did wipe their URL off the signs in favor of my own tongue-in-cheek choices.

Did they fool you? When did you catch on? Got any funny sayings you'd like to see on a church sign? Got any real sayings you've seen and want to share? My comment box is hungry for your words. ~.^

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 124 days is: