Thursday, August 26, 2010

Storms Out In Atlantic Have Me Worried

It's 11 days until we leave for my birthday trip to Disney and I'm a bit concerned with the weather conditions. Not those in Orlando but those out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

It seems a parade of tropical depressions longing to turn into storms and or hurricanes out there. One of them is already a category 2 hurricane named Danielle and another is a tropical depression named "Earl". They are giving me "agida" (that's pronounced "Odd-gi-da" and is Italian slang for heartburn).

As mentioned in a previous post I've created touring plans for our days at the Disney Parks but I don't know where to put "ride out the hurricane" within those plans. I know worrying won't make any difference and We'll have to deal with what happens.

I know I'm turning 50 but now I feel like I'm going to have to become one of those old guys who are obsessed with watching the weather channel. I have to keep up to date on what's going on with the storms.

I'm praying that all of them follow similar paths. Right now Danielle is forecast to stay east of Bermuda and have little effect on the continental US. Perhaps she'll set an example and the others that form before our vacation will follow in her footsteps.

I'm trying my best to stay calm and just have a "what will be will be" attitude but I really don't want to have to deal with a hurricane while I'm celebrating my birthday in Disney World. I'm just gonna have to wait and hope for the best.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Disney Plans Aren't "Perfect"

In exactly 2 weeks from today, thanks to the generosity of my wonderful wife, we will be making our way to Orlando Florida for what promises to be a wonderful four day 50th birthday celebration in Walt Disney World. As I've written many times on this blog I'm extremely excited.

As of a couple of days ago I finished our touring plans. A touring plan is a step by step guide for minimizing the time you wait in line at each attraction or for a show. This week in the mail we received our "Magic Your Way" package which includes our hotel reservation documents. (A big "thank you" to Stephanie from MEI/Mouse Fan Travel for all her helAdd Imagep. If anyone is planning a Disney vacation of any kind go to for assistance. They can get you a the best deal there is and they do all the work for you with no agent fee). So except for the packing and last minute updates we are ready to go visit the happiest place in Florida.

Along the way as I was making my plans I realized that there are some things about my birthday trip that will be disappointing. Actually the disappointments aren't in the things we'll be doing but things I won't be able to do for one reason or another.

For instance, last time we were in "The World" in 2004 I didn't get the chance to ride "It's A Small World". We were with our sons on that trip and since it was a family trip it was a family decision to skip that attraction.

But this time it was going to be at or near the top of my "to do" list for Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. But I found out that it will be closed for "rehab" while we are there. Another attraction I'll be missing in the Magic Kingdom is the Main Street Electrical Parade.

This past summer the Disney podcast and online communities were all buzzing with the excitement over this parade returning to Magic Kingdom after decades of being in Disneyland. Unfortunately the parade is scheduled to run the day before we get there and not again until after we leave.

In Disney Hollywood Studios the "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" walk through exhibit that has lots and lots of memorabilia and historic documents that tell the story of Walt and link directly back to him will be closed during our trip.

The one quick service restaurant in Animal Kingdom that's highly rated and recommended, Flame Tree Barbecue, will be closed as well.

So you see while I am excited about my trip there are some things I want to do but won't be able to while I'm there that I wanted to do. When I expressed my disappointment about these things to my wife she very sweetly replied "that gives you a reason to go back again".

I guess she's right but I really wanted this to be the perfect trip. But nothing's ever really perfect is it? But you know what? In 2 weeks I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD". I can't wait.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Today for the first time in about 25 years I rode a bicycle. I didn't ride it very long or very far but I did ride it.

My sister in law bought a bike a couple of month ago with the intention of riding it for exercise. However the problems she's had with her knees and the excessive heat of the summer has prevented her from doing so.

I have been considering bike riding as a potential form of exercise for a while now. But with everything else that's been going on I haven't the funds to purchase one right now. So I asked my sister in law if I could borrow her bike. She said "anytime".

This afternoon with the weather being a bit cooler (only in the lower 80's) and less humid I decided to try out the bike. I got on it and headed down the road between our town and the church I go to. I made the walk there a few months ago so I figured a round trip on the bike would be a nice first ride.

Well as I got about 1/4 mile down the road the bike's handle bars came loose. I don't know if I leaned on them too hard or what but the were extremely loose. This made riding and controlling the bike extremely difficulty. So about halfway into my journey I decided that I needed to go back to the house.

Now all in all I really enjoyed the time I did get to ride. I think cycling is going to be another potential exercise outlet for me in the future. Despite my sister in law's generosity in offering to use her bike whenever I want to I'm going to look toward getting a bike of my own. I just have to wait until I can afford it. That will probably won't be until next spring.

But I can't wait to get out on the back roads of South Central Kentucky and explore the country side while getting my exercise doing something I've always enjoyed: riding a bike.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"The Balcony Is Closed" For Good

Not many people have ever heard of Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott or know what they do. Perhaps I should say "did". I'll explain what I mean later in this post.

It doesn't take much time to compile a list of television shows that have been on the air for 35 years or longer. NBC's Meet The Press, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, and Sesame Street are the first that come to my mind. Wikipedia lists 35 of them. Ironically the syndicated program I'm posting about isn't on that list.

These first 2 paragraphs refer and bring me to the movie review program, "At The Movies". The syndicated 30 minute show aired it's last program this weekend ending it's 35 year run. Michael Phillips the film critic of Chicago Tribune, and New York Times film critic, A.O. Scott had the privilege of hosting the final episode.

Now the fact that "At The Movies" was even still on the air until this weekend is probably a surprise to 99% of television viewers. Until earlier this year even I wasn't aware that it was still on.

But nevertheless this show is one of television's greatest survivors. It started out as the public television program, "Sneak Previews", in 1975, with it's original hosts, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (pictured above), sitting across the aisle from each other in a fake movie theater set debating and presenting their opinions of Hollywood's latest offerings. It then moved from PBS to syndication with Buena Vista television. The title was changed to "Siskel & Ebert & The movies; later the "& The Movies" part changed to "At The Movies."

When Siskel left the program in February 1999 to undergo treatment for a brain tumor (he died due to complications from surgery less than 3 weeks after announcing his "temporary" departure) Ebert continued the show with co-host Richard Roper. In 2006 Ebert too had to leave the show due to a diagnosis and treament of cancer. It's a battle he's still fighting today.

Richard Roper hosted the show with a rotating series of guest co-hosts until 2008. In '09 critics Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicsz hosted for 2 years before the previously mentioned Phillips and Scott took over and completed the run of the program.

In March 2010 Buena Vista television, the show's long time distributor, announced the cancellation of the show. I first heard about it on one of the Disney Podcasts I listen to.

As I stated earlier I hadn't watched the show in years until the beginning of this year. "At The Movies" or any of the show's incarnations, will always mean Siskel and Ebert to me. They were the iconic hosts of the movie review program, which they originated.

Gene & Roger took the "thankless" job of being a movie critic from the pages of newspaper and or the last 10 minutes of a news broadcast in a big market city and brought it into people's homes. They reclaimed the old Roman custom of "Thumbs up or Thumbs down" and made it their trade mark and part of American pop culture.

In this day and age where there are hundreds or even thousands of websites that review and rate movies it's hard to remember when nationally known movie critics were rare. Siskel & Ebert were pioneers in that television genre. If it weren't for them there may not be a place like "Rotten Tomatoes" to go online to read what's good and not so good at the movies.

So I would like say "goodbye" to "At the movies" with a very respectable "thank you" to Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel (who I agreed with more often than I did his partner) for their hours and hours of entertaining debate, commentary, and recommendations.

It's only fitting that I end this post with the tag line uttered at the end of every episode either by Gene or by Roger. "The Balcony Is Closed". This time permanently.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doing a "180"

Even though I've been winning the battle of the bulge overall during these past 18 months or so; since June I've been at a stand off. The 2 months of June and July included 2 vacations and several events that facilitated eating more carbs and calories than I have in a long time. To be honest I used the vacations as excuses to go on eating binges. One night while In Chicago I binged to the point that I made myself sick.

As a result of not eating the way I should I've gained and lost the same 8-10 pounds several times since the end of May. My weight has been stuck in the 230's since April. But that changed today. This morning I discovered that I've done a "180". I mean that in 2 ways.

When I got on the scale this morning I saw evidence that over the last couple of weeks I've effectively changed my behavior. I've once again had to make a concentrated effort to pull myself back from the habit of compulsive overeating.

Because I had done some binge eating on mostly high calorie foods loaded with carbs I had become addicted to them again. I don't know if there's any scientific or medical evidence for it but take it from me, carbs are like a drug. The more I eat the more I want. My hunger has increased over the course of a couple of months and so has my consumption. I also allowed myself to be controlled once again by my desire for food.

I treated it like a "crying baby" that needed to be appeased immediately. As soon as I felt any pangs or even felt like I was starting to get hungry I ate something to appease the feeling or the belief that I was hungry. Yes, there was true hunger but most of it was "head hunger" aka the addiction to carbs.

Last week I got tired of "yo-yoing" in the 230's. My weight loss stall was frustrating. Inspired by the habits and consistent efforts of my wife, I began tracking my caloric and carb intake. My daily goal was to take in less than 1000 calories and 20 carbs. I also got back to exercising more often. I had skipped quite a few days mostly due to the hot weather, other commitments, and lack of motivation. I got back to my regular walking routine. I have made a 180 degree turnaround from the undisciplined sinful behavior to which I'd returned.

The other "180" I would like to mention is the total amount of weight I've lost. That's right I'm 180 pounds less than I was on March 20, 2009 the day. That was the day I had my first consultation with my gastric bypass surgeon. I now weigh 226 pounds. That means I'm only 56 pounds from my goal weight.

I have been so blessed with a wonderful support system. God has been my biggest and most powerful help. Paula, my wife and partner throughout this whole "weight loss" thing and my life is a priceless treasure and blessing in my life. My sisters who live in Pennsylvania have been a big encourgement as well. I don't get to see them much but our phone conversations to check in with each other (they've both had weight loss surgery too) is a great help in keeping me motivated.

I know this may sound funny to some but my dogs are also an important part of my success. They are my walking partners. My commitment to walking them for exercise has helped me get out there and move at times when I really didn't want to. They have also enjoyed the benifits of walking. Both of them have lost between 10 & 20 pounds since my surgery. They are much healthier now than they were 18 months ago.

Yes, I've done a "180" and there's more hard work and blessing to come. But even if I don't lose another pound; my life is so much better now than I'd ever expected. I feel like I could live to be 180. What a turn around. Thank You Lord.!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Royal Shirt & Dinner With Family

To the left you see a picture of my latest baseball team shirt. It's for the Kansas City Royals. It was given to my by my sister-in-law, Gaile. She's a sweet lady and is married to Paula's brother.

On her recent trip to Kansas City to visit her daughter I asked her to pick me up a Royals shirt. Now usually I try to go to the city and buy baseball team shirt while I'm there. and there's a reason for that. I did that with Washington DC and Milwaukee this summer. But I'm not too sure when I'll get to Kansas City.

I fully intended to pay Gaile for the shirt but she said she didn't want anything for it. She gave it to me as we were waiting for a table last night at a local restaurant.

We met Paula's brother, Woody; and Gaile, at the restaurant for dinner. Paula's cousin, Connie, and her husband would join the 4 of us for dessert as well.

Although we had a long wait for a table (which turned out to be a booth) and our service wasn't all that great. In spite of that the six of us had a wonderful time talking and visiting with each other for a couple of hours. It was a very nice evening with people I don't get to see often enough.

The reason I like to try and go to each city and buy a baseball shirt for that area's team is so that I can have a memory and or story about the shirt attached to it. Without a little history it's just another shirt.

Although I had someone else buy it for me the nice evening we had with Paula's family will always be the thing I remember when I wear my Kansas City Royals shirt. Thanks Gaile.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Digital Conversion Project Finished

Yesterday I finished downloading the majority of the music I own on CD to I-Tunes. It took me several months to do this. I now have 850 albums, just over 6700 songs, which is equal to 18.6 days of continuous listening. The entire download took up 51 gbs of space on my hard drive.

Once I charge my Ipod and sync it up with my I-Tunes I will have my music in a "permanent" digitally mobile state. I will also have plenty of room on the Ipod for downloading other forms of digital media including podcasts and sermons I like to listen to when I'm driving or exercising. I can also download audio books.

Included in the digital conversion is the 3rd generation of my Rewind shows. The programs, which I wrote a few posts about last year, have gone from cassette tape to CD and now to digital.

The only music I have left to import from CD are is my Christmas music. I will do that later in the fall after I get back from Disney World. Right now I want to get the Ipod loaded with the music I have converted so I can enjoy it on the trip to and from Florida.

So now it's onto learning about the Ipod. I have the book "Ipods for Dummies" that I got Paula and I for Christmas last year. I have to read some of it before I start using the Ipod. That's the next step in the process of coming up to speed with the world of digital music. Sorry it took me so long to catch up.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baseball, "The King" & Karaoke

This post is going to be about some terrific things that happened to me over this past weekend. I know I've been writing about all the things I've been doing and places I've been going all year long, including these past couple of months. I don't want it to seem like I'm constantly bragging about the places I go and the things I do. It's just that some times they are so surreal to me. I can't believe I'm there or I'm doing what I'm doing especially in 2010. I just want to let it be known that I appreciate the blessings God has given me; including the ability to do things I never ever dreamed I'd get to do. That's enough of the "I'm not being a narcissist" disclaimer; on to the post.

This weekend was one of those I'll remember for awhile. It started on Friday evening right after I worked my first birthday party dressed as a pirate (see July 31 post). At the invitation of my sister-in-law I went to a small restaurant about 1/2 a mile from my house for dinner and karaoke. "Mama Helen's" has been advertising karaoke on Fridays from 5-8PM for a couple of months. I really enjoy singing karaoke and have intended to go but never had.

The restaurant is very small only comfortably seating about 2 dozen or so customers at a time. Most of the people I know who have gone there, including my sister-in-law, like the place and are repeat customers.

The Karaoke DJ was not the most impressive one I've ever seen or heard. He was an older man with whose singing voice and musical timing was not the greatest. He had a standard karaoke PA set up with speakers, microphones, and a monitor. His music was stored on a notebook computer and a portable hard drive. He told me he had 90,000 songs in his library. Despite his voice lacking the sophistication or talent to be very entertaining or enjoyable he was there and so was I.

I was there to be a participant not be an spectator. There were only about a dozen people there but no one was even attempting to sing. So I got up and sang. My voice was a little strained from talking like a pirate for an hour earlier in the day so my singing was not very good at first either.

We ordered our dinner and it took a while to get there. By the time the spare ribs were brought to our table I had done 4 songs.

Dinner was pretty good and the mac & cheese I ordered with the intentions of "just nibbling" turned up half gone by the time I was finished. With the pies & cakes displayed in the dessert case calling my name I knew it was time to leave.

I had already sang songs like "Daddy Money", "Check Yes or No", and "Mountain of Love". I finished up by singing "Mack The Knife". That's been my signature song ever since I started going to karaoke nights back in the mid 90's. I sang it with confidence and familiarity. I got a bit of reaction from the crowd while I was singing and when I finished. It was a satisfying finish to a return to Karaoke. It was only the 2nd time I'd been to a "karaoke night" since I have lived in Kentucky.

The next memorable event of the weekend happened the next night, Saturday, at a local theater that has live performances. The Capitol Arts theater hosted an Elvis Presley tribute starring Ronnie McDowell.

He's the singer who had a hit with the tribute song "The King Is Gone" back in 1977 shortly after Presley died. Also on the was a few people who had worked with Elvis in both the recording studio and his Vegas night club act. There was the bass singer from the Jordaniers, the woman who sang really high back round vocals on songs like Blue Christmas and a couple other Elvis songs. Both of them were very entertaining and could still sing despite being well into their 80's.

The guest performer I was most impressed by was the Rock & Roll hall of fame drummer DJ Fontana. He's played on hundreds of million selling hits. He only played on a couple of songs but it was cool. Mcdowell's oldest son played the drums on most of the songs they performed.

The 90 minute plus show consisted of McDowell singing some of his favorite Elvis hits accompanied by his guests. They also told stories about their experience with "The King". There was also a bit of audience participation when McDowell had a local state senator sing "Are You Lonesome Tonight" to his wife. I really enjoyed the show but left a bit disappointed.

Ronnie McDowell did not sing "The King Is Gone". That's why he's famous. It's his mainstream claim to fame. It's like going to see Chubby Checker in concert and he doesn't sing "The Twist.". Nevertheless the show was a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing some rock & roll's pioneers in person.

The 3rd and best activity of the weekend happened on Sunday. About a week ago I was given some free tickets to the August 1st Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves game in Cincinnati. I was so excited to get "free" tickets that I took the day off from work to go. I asked a couple of friends to go with me but both of them had other commitments and couldn't go. So I decided to go by myself.

On Sunday morning I took my time getting ready and planned to leave at about 8:30. The 4 hour drive to the ballpark would get me there about 12:30 just in time to be in my seat by game time, 1:10PM. I forgot one thing. Cincinnati is on eastern time and is an hour ahead. I knew that but just forgot about it. I remembered about 7:56AM just before going to take my shower.

So when I left the house I was running a bit late. Well I put the pedal to the metal and made only a couple of necessary stops on the way. I arrived at the gate of Great American Ballpark at 12:30 eastern time. That was the quickest trip I've ever made to Cincinnati.

I parked in a lot next to the Bengals stadium and made the 1/2 mile walk to the ballpark. It was a lot of fun seeing the people walking from various avenues toward the front gates. The reason I parked so far away was because I knew I could walk a little and save some money on parking. I remember a time when I couldn't walk anywhere near that distance. I try to take advantage of the pleasure of the journey whenever I can.

My seat was in section 521 in the upper deck behind home plate in the middle of row "I". This meant a little hike up the stairs and ramps inside the stadium. But, once again, I wasn't taking the elevator. I can walk now.

The view farther away than when I was there in April. But it was also an entirely different area of the stadium and there were lots of things I hadn't seen before.

Once again for the 2nd time in a month, I found myself sitting at a baseball game in the sun on a very hot sunny summer's day. Before the game I got something to eat and later bought a couple of drinks from the walk around stadium vendors.

The place was crowded. There were 40, 870 people and me there to see the last game of the 3 game series. I enjoyed the game (a 2-1 Reds victory) and my view of nearly the entire field helped me see all the action of the play that scored the tying and wining runs for the Reds.

I left right after the game despite there being a free gospel music concert by the group, Mercy Me. I was tired, sweaty, a bit sunburned, and thirsty. I wanted to get back to the car and go buy a drink that cost less than $5. I did some souvenir shopping, walked to my car, and drove home.

I took my time on the drive back but still got home before it was dark. It was a wonderful afternoon and a great weekend. The 3 events that helped make it what it was will be something I'll be thinking about for a long time. It was a great way to transition from July to August.

This weekend just adds to the adventures I've had so far this summer. With all the places I've gone and things I've done I have decided to dub 2010 the year of the road trip. Now I've got a little more than a month before our trek to Disney World for my birthday trip. Those 6 days will bring a wonderful ending to a terrific year of adventurous journeys.