pyesetz: (woof)

Our room.  Kid #2 refuses day 5 of ear drops.  In his opinion, “day 1” should have been the day when the medication was prescribed, which was skipped because I didn’t buy the stuff until the next day.  He doesn’t see the need to add a “day 6” to make up for that.
      As an American parent, I can *insist* that my minor child take prescribed medications that I paid lots of money for.  But Canadians over 16 years old have bodily autonomy and cannot be forced by their parents to accept medical treatments, so I throw the bottle of ear drops in the garbage bin.  It did whatever it did for him; we’ll never know what would have happened if he hadn’t taken it; obviously it has been doing nothing for his viral cold.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  This has always been my least-favorite park.  It is so fake!  There’s plenty of trees, but the biggest one (and emblem of the park) is actually a giant piece of concrete that’s been *decorated* to look like a tree.  The park is full of carefully-arranged moats covered by carefully-arranged plantings, to make it look like the “wild” animals have much more “freedom” of movement than they actually get.  It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but it isn’t really a “zoo” so much as it is a “curated zoo-like experience”.  You need large numbers of “scare quotes” when talking about this park.
      Attractions visited today: Dinosaur, Dino Institute Shop (souvenir, 12:48pm), Restaurantosaurus (no purchase), TriceraTop Spin (kids only), Yak & Yeti Cafe (lunch, 1:43pm), Mombasa Marketplace (take-home, 3:19pm; souvenir, 3:20pm), Expedition Everest (Kid #1 and I), Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Tamu Tamu (snack, 4:33pm).  We had hoped to do It’s Tough to Be a Bug and Flights of Wonder which had been postponed from day 5, but there’s just not enough time, as this park closes at 5pm.
      In the past, I have always avoided the Dinosaur ride, so this is my first time.  The opening video has this “doctor” who tells us that she will ”literally” send us back to the time of the dinosaurs.  IMNSHO, the actress they chose has no idea how to portray a doctorate-holder and their script-writer has no idea how PhD’s actually talk; my family thinks I am being too hard on them.  Anyway, the back-story goes swiftly downhill from there: why should the wayward male “doctor” send the audience back to the extremely dangerous moment of the meteor impact, when he can just as easily redeem himself in the eyes of the female “doctor” by “accidentally” sending the time machine back without any passengers?  You see what I mean about the extensive need for “scare quotes” at this park.  The ride is track-based and has too many swishy-swashy movements for my taste.  The animatronic dinos that you ride past seem okay.
      At the Dino Institute Shop, Kid #2 buys a chunk of amethyst for his rock collection.  $5.28.
      In Wifey’s original plan, today’s lunch was supposed to be at Restaurantosaurus (which is a themed McDonald’s) because it is near Dinosaur.  But that plan had us eating at Yak & Yeti on day 5, which didn’t happen, so the revised plan says we should eat there today.  Yet still we end up sitting down at Restaurantosaurus because it is near Dinosaur and we have to make family decisions while studying the park map.
      This is the first visit in 20 years that does not include any entry into The Boneyard.  But our kids are just too old for a giant sandbox.
      The TriceraTop Spin ride is in an enclosed kiddie area.  You have to go right to enter the area, not left towards the ride’s own entrance which is not directly accessible.  I try to tell the kids that, but they just keep walking left.  So I let them go.  Eventually they turn back and enter on the right, only to discover that there actually is a left entrance that is usable.  Wifey and I sit on a bench like oldsters.
      The last time we were here, the “hidden” seating area behind Yak & Yeti was deserted.  This time it is literally packed; we cannot find a seat anywhere.  They have stopped carrying American-style sauceless sweet-and-sour chicken, which Kid #1 had been looking forward to for months.  The nearby Indian dance music is extremely loud and we have to just stand there and listen to it because we cannot find a place to sit; this all puts Kid #1 into a pre-meltdown mood.  Eventually a cast member takes pity on us and finds us a free table (or just points out that a table has suddenly become free).  The food is disappointing when we are finally able to eat it.
      At Mombasa Marketplace, Wifey gets two boxes of animal crackers to use up snack credits.  Kid #2 pays $5.28 for a slice of agate to add to his collection.
      Wifey was supposed to do Finding Nemo — the Musical when the rest of us did Expedition Everest.  But this is prevented by the need to rejigger our FastPass™ times (which we have had to do EVERY SINGLE DAY because SOMETHING always comes up).  Also, Kid #2 sees the big drop that the Expedition Everest roller coaster makes and decides not to go on it, so he and Wifey just sit while Kid #1 and I ride.
      Expedition Everest is *excellent*!  The ride is very smooth with no bone-rattling.  The broken-off tracks are probably very scary to people who didn’t read the warning that this coaster sometimes goes backwards.  The various loops have an “extreme” feeling to them without actually being very extreme.  A perfect example of why Disney makes the best roller coasters in the world.
      On Kilimanjaro Safaris, Wifey takes many animal photos with her digital camera, while Kid #1 takes some using her smartphone.  As we are exiting from the ride, it begins to rain.  We put on our rain ponchos (mine comes from a dollar store and is decorated with a maple-leaf motif).  Our feet get soaked, but it is a warm rain.
      At Tamu Tamu, Wifey finally(!) gets her Dole Whip® (although it is called “pineapple softserve” at this park).  Kid #1 shares it with her, while Kid #2 and I get thoroughly soaked because there is no place to escape from the (thankfully-warm) rain.  Then we all get soaked on the long walk back to the park entrance.

Golden Corral (Celebration FL, 7:46pm).  Kid #1 was not looking forward to eating here, after our lunch experience in New York with this chain.  But the food here is just as good as I remember.  Only $63.28 for a lovely family dinner.  Now *that’s* what I’m talking about!  This buffet requires payment on entry, so it seems the tip needs to be in cash.  I give the waitress $6 and conveniently get some US money out of my wallet.

Landscape of Flavors (10:35pm).  Convert six dinner-credits into 18 snack credits and buy Nutter-Butters, Nilla Wafers, 10 rolls of Oreos, and 4 chocolate-coated Rice Krispy treats with Disney characters on their packages.  Also get a bottle of Coke (for me to drink during our last morning in the room) and a package of peanut M&M’s (for me to eat on the homeward plane flight).  Kid #2 carries the bag of loot.

Ink and Paint (10:54pm).  Convert 18 dinner-credits into 2 bags of pretzels, 3 bags of nuts, 10 apple pies, 25 Snickers bars, and 14 Kit Kats.  Kid #2 helps with the math.  I get confused and think I have converted too many credits, but a cast member gets the bright idea of printing out the current status of our dining plan, showing that we have plenty of remaining credits of both kinds (because this store doesn’t have the Reese’s cups that we were also planning to buy, so we bought less than planned).
      The store manager thanks me repeatedly for my business and asks me to sign a copy of the receipt showing that I bought over $100 worth of candy from him; no previous use of the dining plan has required a signature.  It occurs to me that I have traded snack credits that are “worth” up to $5 for candy bars that are selling for $2 — but the bars are much easier to carry home with us than the $5 snacks that are freshly-made and perishable.  Perhaps one unit of DisneyCorp pays another unit of DisneyCorp $5 per snack credit, no matter how little the snack cost?  This would explain the manager’s glee.

Our room.  Wifey and I try various combinations of packing the UPS box and the various backpacks and suitcases, trying to decide how in the world we are going to get all this candy home without having it turn into a chocolatey mess.  The kids wisely stay in the other room of our suite.

pyesetz: (sozont)

Our room.  Day 4 dose 1 of Kid #2’s ear drops.

Landscape of Flavors (12:12pm).  Lunch.

Ink and Paint (12:45pm).  Single-dose DayQuil for $2.45.  Kid #2 is coughing.  Also, get a sandwich-cutter for $6.34 that makes white-bread sandwiches look like Mickey Mouse’s head.  Our kids are too old for such foolishness (and have never attended public school), but we can buy it anyway!

Ink and Paint (12:57pm).  Two Entenmann’s Apple Pies.  Obviously there is no way we can eat up all the “snack” credits during this vacation, so we have to start accumulating snacks that will travel well so we can bring the excess food home.

Our room.  To prepare for today, Wifey spent months making herself a Minnie Mouse costume.  Part of the costume consists of old shoes to which she laboriously applied many coats of yellow paint.  But the shoes feel tight and today’s schedule includes massive quantities of walking and Wifey’s knee is already feeling gimpy from previous days’ exertions, so she decides to be prudent and not wear the special shoes that she worked so hard on.
      Wifey insists that I wear a Haunted Mansion T-shirt.  Kid #2 does not dress up at all.
      Kid #1 wears her Dr. Who outfit.  She also has a Winnie the Pooh fursuit (open-face) that we didn’t bring because obviously it would be too hot for Florida.  But even the tweed jacket for her Who suit seems like too much for the 90° weather, so she leaves that item in our room.
      Kid #1 also brought her Winnie the Pooh doll, but it spends the entire trip in her backpack and no pictures are taken of it at the park, where we had bought it as childless newlyweds in hopes of someday having a baby to give it to.  Well, after a year of fertility treatments, we got our wish!  Considering how many years Pooh spent as her go-everywhere favorite doll, it is in remarkably good shape.

Magic Kingdom Park (3:40pm – 12:00am).  It’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
      Regular park hours run until 7pm, while special party tickets are for 4pm to midnight.  They have started to accept special tickets but then the revelers are being held in a pen until the stroke of 4.  Since we have excess park tickets because of our skipped days, we decide to “waste” them by entering the park 20 minutes before everyone else in our class.  The ticket collectors find this hard to believe, but they let us do it.  It feels so luxurious to engage in such “conspicuous consumption”; we are spending an entire day’s ticket just to get 20 minutes of extra park time!  But there is nothing else we can do with these nonrefundable nontransferable tickets.  Maybe for our next trip (if there ever is a next trip), we’ll buy park tickets for only half of the hotel days.
      Attractions visited today: Various trick-or-treat spots, Main Street USA photo spot (photo, 3:48pm), Confectionary (take-home, 3:57pm), Crystal Palace (dinner, missing receipt), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Big Top Souvenir (take-home, 8:56pm; actual souvenir, 8:58pm), Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Astro Orbiter (Kid #1 and I), Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, “Monsters’ Dance Party”, “Happy Hallowishes”, a popcorn cart (snack and souvenir, 10:47pm), Big Thunder Mountain (kids only), Aloha Isle (snack, 11:05pm), and Mickey’s “Boo-to-you” Parade (kids and parents on opposite sides).
      At the Main Street USA photo spot, Wifey wants a family photo with Cinderella’s Castle as the backdrop.  I suggest taking two photos with three people each, then stitching the digital photos together back home, but it seems unlikely that this would work well.  A pair of other park guests who are walking by offer to take our family photo for us.  Yay!  So now we need a photo frame.
      At Confectionary, we get 3 additional boxes of shortbread cookies imported from Scotland and shaped like Mickey’s head.  Paying customers would be forking out over a dollar each for small ordinary cookies — but for “free” we’ll take them!
      Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  This is totally different.  You see animated characters on a big screen, but clearly there are live comics working behind the scenes at this show who are making up jokes on the fly.  Periodically they shine lights and cameras on individual audience members and put these live video feeds on a big screen with funny captions below them.  Only a small minority of audience members get this treatment.  They point the camera at me with the notation, “What do you get when you cross a human with a chia pet?”  Presumably this refers to my beard, which is a different color from my scalp hair.  Unfortunately I am unable to think of a funny dance to do while the camera is on me.
      The Crystal Palace buffet costs $202.88 for dinner (actual money, not on our meal plan; can’t find receipt so price taken from the final-accounting email sent by Disney after our trip is over).  The food isn’t worth quite that much, but this restaurant includes meet-and-greets with various Winnie the Pooh characters.  Wifey takes photos of our kids with Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh; she tries to get them to strike the same poses as on previous trips, but this is physically impossible because the character fursuits are the same size but our kids are now much bigger.
      At The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh exit shop, we find out that Winnie The Pooh® brand honey is no longer offered, so we can’t buy it, so Wifey can’t check off this item in her giant list of “Things to do at Disney World” formed during the two years of planning.  Oh well.
      At Big Top Souvenir, Wifey gets two containers of cheese goldfish and a bag of pretzels.  We have way more dinner-credits than we can use, so she trades one dinner for these three snacks.  Big Top is one of the few in-park stores that offers this conversion feature, which is usually done at the hotel food courts.  Wifey is so focused on the snacks that I have to remind her to get a fridge magnet for our collection!  I say, “If this is the ‘trip of a lifetime’, shouldn’t we buy a fridge magnet?”  This probably sounds rather silly to the store staff.  Anyway, I select a small picture frame surrounded by “Walt Disney World 2015” with both magnet and kickstand features — only $10.60!
      The Monsters’ Dance Party is very loud and has bright lights; guests dance along with cast members who are wearing fursuits.  Wifey and Kid #1 join in, while Kid #2 and I sit it out.
      Astro Orbiter is a kiddie ride.  Kid #1 and I share a vehicle, which was fine ten years ago but quite cramped now.
      As we exit from Haunted Mansion, the “Happy Hallowishes” fireworks display starts up, so we sit to watch.  At one point, half the visible sky is filled with exploding fireworks!  We’ve never seen anything like it.
      At the popcorn stand, Wifey uses a snack credit for bottled water (another luxury, since water fountains are available but bottled water is cold and we might as well use the snack credits).  She gets a souvenir bucket of popcorn for $6.00 (popcorn is a snack, but souvenir buckets aren’t; Kid #1 eats the popcorn).  On one of our previous trips we got souvenir buckets which the kids then used in their sandbox at home — but they are too old for that now.
      At the trick-or-treat spots, cast members give out handfuls of fun-size candy which are not as impressive as the full-size candy bars we can get with our snack credits.  At one spot, the cast member greets me and Kid #2 by name (since we are wearing our 15-year-old nametags).  She greets Wifey as “Minnie” due to her costume.  I don’t remember what she called Kid #1, but it wasn’t “Dr. Who”.  I remark to Kid #1 that Minnie Mouse is a Disney property but Dr. Who is a BBC property, which may explain why the cast member couldn’t refer to it.  On at least two other occasions today, some other guest we passed by uttered the passphrase “bow ties are cool” which is a Dr. Who reference, but Kid #1 didn’t hear them or couldn’t think of a reply.
      At Aloha Isle, I get pineapple juice, which is tasty but isn’t Dole Whip® which is one of the fond-memory foods that Wifey had wanted to eat on this vacation.  But here we are on day 10 and she still hasn’t had any, because we’re never near the Aloha Isle when she’s hungry.  There are definitely some downsides to this eat-all-the-time dining plan; also the excessive heat is suppressing our appetites.  Anyway, Wifey shares some of my pineapple juice while we watch the parade, thinking that the kids are enjoying themselves on Big Thunder Mountain.
      Meanwhile, the stand-by line for Big Thunder is unexpectedly long, so our children get in only one ride and don’t feel like standing in line again, but the parade route cuts off the Big Thunder/Splash Mountain area of the park, so the kids just stand there and watch the parade, then rejoin us after crossing the street becomes possible.
      The “Boo-to-you” Parade is supposed to be one of Disney’s best.  Ho hum.  I guess we’re just not parade people.  This is the first parade in 25 years that we actually sat and watched instead of avoiding at all costs.  It is probably also the last.

Our room.  I apply five drops of ofloxacin to Kid #2’s ear.  This is day 4, dose 2.
      My wife and I will probably never again visit the Magic Kingdom for as long as we live.  Our kids are all grown up now and the expected delay until grandchildren arrive is greater than our remaining life expectancy (although you never know).  I has a sad.  In fact, I have a sad repeatedly over the next several days.  I think my first visit to the park was in 1972; Wifey’s first visit was later that decade.  We just don’t have the money to bop down here without a good reason such as a grandchild or a hefty inheritance.

pyesetz: (woof)

Our room.  Day 2, dose 1 for Kid #2’s ear drops.  Wait around for Wifey’s college friend, whom we haven’t seen since our previous trip to Disney World ten years ago.

Our room (12:30pm).  Friend arrives.  We spend quite some time in our hotel room with her, catching up on typical old-person topics (who died, who has grandkids, etc.)  My children are polite and make it seem like they actually care about such things.

Landscape of Flavors (lunch, 2:00pm).  We give the friend one of our plenitude of food credits; as of May 2015 it is now permitted to buy food for people who are not on the plan.  We all have lunch together, then split up by gender.

Wifey, Kid #1, and the friend

Big Blue Pool (inside Art of Animation Resort).  Hang out at the swimming pool for more conversation.

Kid #2 and I

Pixel Play Arcade (inside Art of Animation Resort).  Our accommodation includes a coupon for 100 play-points at the arcade, but both of the machines that are supposed to convert the coupon to an access card say they are “empty”.  There is no cast member at the arcade today (it’s Sunday), so we go to the concierge desk; they give us a card with 250 points *and* return the unused coupon.  What a great deal, eh?  But the games are not much fun and half the games we select are “free play” anyway, so we use very few of the play-points before losing interest.  One of the less-uninteresting games is Fruit Ninja, which Kid #2 recognizes as a game that was originally written for the iPad and has been retrofitted for the larger screen of an arcade game.  (Back in my day, the arcade was the initial target-market and then games were retrofitted for personal computers).

Our room.  Use our computers with the hotel Wi-Fi.  This is more fun than the arcade.


Our room.  The womenfolk return to the room for more conversation.  The friend leaves around 5:30pm, so she got a five-hour visit for which she drove 2½ hours each way.  Then my family has more computer fun while we wait for it to get darker.

Our room.  It’s Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of Jewish year 5776.  This is at least the third time in the last 25 years that we have celebrated it in a hotel room.  Wifey’s original plan was to eat dinner in the room with rotisserie chicken from a grocery store, an apple, and Winnie the Pooh® brand honey.  But we didn’t get around to buying the chicken or the honey and I forgot to pick up an apple at the hotel food court.  In our room fridge there is a leftover fruit cup that includes three slices of apple (desserts are included in the dinner food-credits, but the Disney dinners are too much food for us).  So we look up the Rosh Hashanah blessings on the Internet and say them while eating the apple slices (Wifey and I share one slice).  Wifey brought along a single birthday candle from Canada, so we stick it in a leftover-dessert cupcake, light it on fire (oh noes!  An open flame in a hotel room!), and wish the world a happy birthday.  Then we blow out the candle and divide up the cupcake.  Happy New Year!

Disney Transport (Lake Buena Vista FL).  We take a bus to Downtown Disney, which is in the middle of being rethemed as “Disney Springs” so many of the parking lots are closed for reconstruction.  Hey, it’s another ride!

Wolfgang Puck’s Express (Downtown Disney, 7:18pm).  I wasn’t too impressed with Chef Puck when we ate at one of his cafeterias in Boston.  This one is considerably upscale from that, but still there is much to complain about.  My chicken soup tastes sweet.  My brownie tastes like gooey sugar syrup with chocolate flavor (but other family members enjoy theirs).  The receipt makes it look like we paid $74.87 for family dinner, but actually the cost was covered by our dining plan.  Bottled juice is available, but only fountain drinks are on the plan, unlike at Disney-branded restaurants.  The cashier keeps asking us to list our “meals” first (eventually we figure out that she means “entrées”).
      After dinner, we split up by gender again.

Kid #2 and I

Sassagoula Steamboat Co.  Take a ferry across Lake Buena Vista to Downtown Disney’s “West Side”.  The captain says the name of the ferry company, as if it were an attraction, and the name is displayed on the dock but doesn’t appear on the Downtown Disney map, so I’m calling it a ”group” (like the popcorn carts) rather than an “attraction” (with name shown here in purple).  Walt Disney Corp. owns everything in sight, so the distinction is sort of arbitrary.  The Sassagoula River flows into Lake Buena Vista.

DisneyQuest (8:15pm).  We have a coupon for a day’s admission to this five-story building full of arcades, restaurants, and a few rides.  We just go on the rides and are done in an hour.  Attractions visited today: Invasion ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, and Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for Buccaneer Gold.
      DisneyQuest is scheduled to be closed next year, so this is our only chance to go on these rides.  AstroBlaster is the main one that I would want to go on again.  It’s sort of like bumper-cars but for two-man crews.  I steered (which was difficult) while Kid #2 loaded the “cannon” and lobbed “asteroids” at the other vehicles.  When hit, a vehicle would spin around and then return to the control of its occupants.  Fun!

Sassagoula Steamboat Co.  Ferry back to the “Marketplace” side of Downtown Disney.

Disney Transport.  Bus back to our resort.  The bus driver asks the men to give up their seats for women and children, who must surely be tired from all their shopping.  No one moves.  Kid #2 (who is nearly a man) and I try to get some standing females to take our seats, but none of them will accept the offer.  “Don’t be silly,” says one.  “I’m a teacher and I stand all day.”  So we sit back down.  “The bus driver was making a joke,” I tell her.

Wifey and Kid #1

Mickey’s Pantry (8:00pm).  Two packages of shortbread cookies, paid for with snack-credits.

Goofy’s Candy Co. (8:15pm).  A box of animal crackers and a bag of plain M&Ms, to use up two more snack-credits.

Little Miss Matched (8:22pm).  $9.94 for three deliberately-mismatched but color-coördinated socks, to be given to a homeschooler girl we know who likes to wear that sort of thing.

World of Disney (9:07pm).  $8.47 for a silicone pancake mold shaped like Mickey’s head.  Also, a box of mints that we’ll give to some homeschooling friends (snack credit).

Ghiradelli (9:17pm).  Shared hot fudge brownie sundae for $11.66.  The receipt comes with a “10% off” coupon, but there are no Ghiradelli stores in Canada.  Perhaps we can use it in Boston.

Tren-D (9:39pm).  $6.34 for a Minnie Mouse rhinestone headband, to be given to yet another homeschooler girl we know.

Disney Transport.  Ride the bus back to Art of Animation Resort.


Our room.  The guys return only shortly before the gals, even though we did less stuff, because of our additional travel time on the ferry.  Also, day 2 dose 2 goes into Kid #2’s ear.

pyesetz: (woof)

Walmart (via telephone).  They want $118 for the small bottle of ofloxacin!

CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, via telephone).  They haven’t restocked on ofloxacin since yesterday.  They say that their price is not based on insurance, but on their “actual cost” as a nonprofit organization.  They give me the number of the next-closest CentraCare.

CentraCare (Orange Lake FL, via telephone).  They have the ofloxacin for $27, but they cannot sell it to me unless Kid #2 is seen by one of their own doctors; a doctor from another office of the same company is not good enough!  “We’re not a pharmacy,” they say, but I suspect the problem is that there are only extremely limited situations in which they are allowed to sell drugs without the 300% markup that is otherwise required in the US in order to support the Medical-Industrial Complex. sells otic ofloxacin for $29; they get away with that by claiming it’s only for dogs+cats.

TD/Allianz (via telephone).  It’s Saturday.  The telephone number they told me to use for “claim in progress” is not staffed on weekends.

Walgreens (Orlando FL, 11:22am).  A different Walgreens, just over the city line from Lake Buena Vista, so out of Disney’s clutches.  $115.54 for ofloxacin plus some cotton balls that the doctor told us to use with it (only available in bags of 100, which is 10 times the number we actually need).  The pharmacist helpfully points out the part of the receipt that I am supposed to submit to my insurance company and tries to reassure me that the cost will definitely be reimbursed (but he didn’t ask who my insurer is, so how would he know?).

Our room.  Five drops in the kid’s ear.  They feel “weird”.  The main reason why Kid #2 needs to take this stuff is because the insurance contract says they won’t cover problems caused by failure to take prescribed medications and these drops were prescribed.

Magic Kingdom Park.  This time we take the tram and it’s only about 35 minutes from our room to the entrance booths.
      Attractions visited today: Walt Disney World Railroad, Barnstormer (not Wifey), Dumbo, Under the Sea – Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest (lunch, 2:07pm), It’s a Small World (Wifey and Kid #2), Peter Pan, a popcorn cart (snack, 4:45pm), Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (snack, 5:05pm), Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Wifey & Kid #1), Tomorrowland Speedway (not Wifey), 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (not Wifey), Mad Tea Party (not Wifey), and Emporium (just Wifey, souvenirs 5:25pm).
      While Wifey & Kid #1 do PhilharMagic again, Kid #2 and I try to go on the Mad Tea Party ride, but it closes down (possibly due to the rain) just as we arrive.  Later, Kid #1 joins us for another try and we are successful.
      It is interesting to go on Tomorrowland Speedway with my two children, both of whom now possess student-driver licenses.  Kid #1 remembers the last time we were here, when she was 11 and was told she could not drive because she was too short.  So this time, Kid #1 and Kid #2 each drive their own cars while I act as passenger for Kid #2, who has not begun his driver-training yet so this is his first time “behind the wheel” as it were.  Unfortunately, the car has almost no steering control (perhaps due to rain?) and is very frustrating to operate.  After the ride, Kid #1 reassures her brother that real cars are much easier to steer.
      At the “popcorn” cart, we get Mickey Mouse ice cream bars (only 3 of them because Kid #2 is not feeling well).  They are Nestlé-branded but the chocolate is quite dark and unlike Nestlé’s usual crap.  It’s great that we can finally try these things without worrying about whether they’re actually worth $4.25 each, because they’re considered “snacks” and are covered by our dining plan.
      At Cosmic Ray’s, where we sit to eat the ice cream, I buy some bottled water for Wifey using an additional snack credit — because we have so many of them!
      At the Emporium, Wifey buys a Minnie Mouse tote bag ($26.58) for her college roommate/bridesmaid, who will be visiting us tomorrow.  She also buys Mickey Mouse earrings ($8.47) for herself.

The Knife (Lake Buena Vista FL, 9:10pm).  Argentinian steakhouse buffet.  They try to be impressive, but I think Golden Corral is better.  $160.37 for dinner, which seems overpriced.
      We had planned to eat here because we had heard of the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil, each of which sends large quantities of teenagers to Disneyworld at certain times of the year (supposedly they taunt each other in the parks).  I guess I was expecting something more “authentic” that would appeal to actual Argentinians on vacation in Florida.  But this restaurant entices with odor what it fails to deliver on taste.
      The restaurant claims to be in Orlando FL, but Google suggests they are actualy just inside the city limits of Lake Buena Vista (hence paying rent to Disney).  When presenting the bill, the waiter asks me to show him my Disney employee ID so I can get the corporate discount.  I am wearing a Disney “Guest of Honor” nametag from 15 years ago; this product is no longer sold and many Disney cast members have asked me about it on this trip.  My badge is red (as is Kid #2’s); this meant “male” back in the day — Wifey and Kid #1 have blue badges.  One cast member told me that Disney corporate bigwigs wear red badges now.  Oddly enough, no one ever asks about my 20+ year old Goofy hat; the same design is still sold today and mine doesn’t look that old because I haven’t used it much.

Our room.  Five more drops in the kid’s ear.

pyesetz: (woof)

TD/Allianz Insurance (via telephone; 10:15am - 10:45am).  Kid #2 still can’t hear much with his right ear, so I call the insurance company to find out which clinic around here will work with them.  They call Lake Buena Vista CentraCare, confirm that it is willing to direct-bill them, and then fax over a pre-authorization form for us.  The insurance company says that the clinic is expecting us and we should proceed there immediately.

CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, 11:00am - 2:30pm).  They received the fax and are expecting us, but still there are hours of waiting during which people who arrive after us are seen first; later I learn that you are supposed to go to their website and make an “appointment” (even though it is an urgent-care clinic) in order to obtain a “significantly” reduced wait-time.
      Of course, the first thing to do is fill out medical-history forms.  The most bizarrely-American item on the forms is the requirement that the patient must identify his “race” and whether he is “hispanic”.  Kid #2 has no idea what his race is (the concept is not much used in Canada).  I tell him that I generally say my race is either “White” or “Other” (because “Jewish” used to be a separate race, but was combined with “White” in the 1930s for political reasons; when I hear “White race” I think of what Sarah Palin calls “real Americans”, who are not my people and have no common ancestry with me in the last 1,000 years); Kid #2 writes ”White” on the form.  There is another Canadian seeking medical care at the clinic, who loudly complains about the absurdity of the race question.  “Everyone’s the same in Canada,” she says.  I elect not to mention to her the situation of the Québécois (or the Aboriginals, for that matter — Canada gives them special ID cards which exempt them from sales tax, but that really doesn’t compensate them for the crap they put up with).
      A person’s declared race is of little medical value.  For example, about 10% of black people have G6PD deficiency which causes certain drugs to be unsuitable for them, but most Blacks don’t have this problem and some Whites do (especially Jews and other Mediterranean people).  Anyway, there is absolutely no medical reason to ask for the race of the guarantor who will be paying for the service!  But yes, the form wants to know my race, too.  I think this is because of US government regulations requiring medical practitioners to collect such data and which obligate them, for patients who refuse to participate in this inanity, to use their own prejudices to guess which race the person providing the money seems to be a member of.
      Another bizarrely-American feature of this medical clinic is the inspirational quote that is painted on the wall over the restroom doors.  It says something like, “Faith in Christ improves wellness of mind, body, and spirit”.  Later I learn that CentraCare is part of Florida Hospital, which is owned by Adventist Health System, which is an arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
      The city of Lake Buena Vista is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, so Florida Hospital must be paying them rent in order to run a business here.  While we were waiting, someone came in claiming to be a Disney employee; he was refused treatment and was told that he must go to DisneyCorp’s own medical facilities.  Lake Buena Vista is basically the implementation of Walt’s EPCOT concept for the corporatist ”city of tomorrow“, where your citizenship class determines which medical facilities you may use.  (In Ontario, anyone can be treated anywhere, although you’ll usually get quicker service in a clinic than at an emergency room and more personalized service if you set up a continuing relationship with a physician’s private practice.)
      * * * * *
      Eventually a doctor examines Kid #2 for (just about) two minutes.  Based on her bedside manner, I think she is a pediatrician.  Kid #2 is 17 years old, which now makes him an ”adult” as far as Canadian healthcare is concerned, but in the American system he is still a “child” and must be seen by a kid-doctor rather than an ear-doctor.  She says his earwax is impacted, prescribes an irrigation of both ear canals using diluted H₂O₂, announces that the clinic will provide this service, then leaves.  After some more waiting, a nurse(?) comes in and performs the procedure, which is effective in restoring Kid #2’s hearing.  Then more waiting.  Then the doctor returns for another few minutes to examine the cleaned ear canals.  The right one is red, so she prescribes ofloxacin drops twice a day for five days.  More waiting.  An orderly(?) announces that the clinic will sell us this medication for $27.  I agree to pay.  More waiting.  The orderly comes back to say that this particular CentraCare clinic is out of stock on that medication; he gives me an scrip and suggests I drive down the street to Walgreens to get the drug.
      And then, a wondrous thing happens: we are let out of the building without having to pay anything!  Thank you, TD Canada Trust bank, for selling us this foreign-travel health insurance that ACTUALLY WORKS!  The insurance cost $80 for two weeks’ coverage of four people; Allianz said on the phone that the estimated cost of an exam for “ear infection” is about $250.

Landscape of Flavors (1:50pm).  Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Wifey and Kid #1 eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Walgreens pharmacy (Lake Buena Vista FL, 2:35pm - 2:45pm).  The pharmacist says that the drug costs $113!  I don’t know why the price is so different, nor whether Allianz would reimburse me so much.  The antibiotic treatment doesn’t seem so important now that the canal is clean, so I decide to put this problem off until tomorrow.

Art of Animation parking lot (2:55pm).  Our first FastPass™ of the day is scheduled for 3:55pm (already rejiggered from 2:50pm because there’s no way we can make that), so the plan is for Wifey and Kid #1 to take the bus to Epcot if we don’t get back to the hotel by 2:55pm.  The bus shows up at the same time we do, so the womenfolk skip the bus and hitch a ride in our rental car to the amusement park.

Epcot®.  The Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, brought to you by various corporate sponsors who control which facts each ride may present.  Attractions visited today: Electric Umbrella (lunch, 3:34pm; snack, 4:11pm), Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mission: SPACE (except Wifey), Test Track (except Wifey), The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Sunshine Seasons (dinner, 7:56pm), Soarin (Kid #1 & I), and The Circle of Life (Wifey & Kid #2).
      Kid #2 and I catch up on lunch at the Electric Umbrella, since we didn’t have time after the medical stuff.  I get a bottle of water for Wifey to use up another snack credit.
      Spaceship Earth is now sponsored by Siemens instead of AT&T; the dioramas have been completely redone to emphasize “communication technology” instead of “connecting people across the world”.
      Ellen’s Energy Adventure has not been redone in 20 years (perhaps because Exxon stopped sponsoring it in 2004); it is now quite dated.  Bill Nye has aged considerably since this presentation was recorded.  He is the co-star with Ms. DeGeneres and his career is currently doing very well (with multiple honorary doctorates received in recent years), so why doesn’t he get billing?  The emphasis on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and wind power as “the future” now seems ridiculous.
      The Seas is a new ride.  It is similar to It’s a Small World, except with an undersea theme rather than toys/Christmas, and is sponsored by Disney’s Finding Nemo rather than Mattel.
      Of the restaurants on our dining plan, Sunshine Seasons seems to have the best selection so far.  My dinner is tuna salad on a croissant, strawberry shortcake, and orange juice (my throat is scratchy).
      Soarin is new.  It is a motion-simulator ride in front of an iMAX-type giant movie screen, where you pretend to be flying with the birds.  On our way out of this ride, I remark to Kid #1 that there was a dirt-spot on the screen that was visible when a pale color was displayed there; some random other park guest walking by says, “Oh, you noticed that, too?”
      The park is open an extra two hours tonight, for Disney resort guests only, but we are too tired to utilize this feature and go back to our hotel at the regular closing time.  Six hours of amusement is enough!  Wifey’s schedule had called for us to visit Club Cool, Journey Into Imagination, Turtle Talk, and Innoventions, but we decide to put those off until our next visit to Epcot later in this vacation.

pyesetz: (woof)

Our room.  Kid #2’s ear is a little better than yesterday, so we decide not to find out whether our “Foreign travel medical insurance” actually works.  The USA is a nasty country to get sick in — they let uninsured people die in the gutter of treatable illnesses — so we’d rather not try our luck with the foreign insurance unless truly necessary.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Attractions visited today: none.  Instead, this is an unscheduled rest day.
      Poor Wifey!  She created schedules for each day of the vacation and snipped four sets of 11 pieces of paper so each family member could have the day’s script in their pocket — and not once so far has a day actually gone exactly as planned!  We were supposed to do It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Kilimanjaro Safari, Flights of Wonder, Yak & Yeti (lunch), Expedition Everest, Triceratops Spin, Primeval Whirl, and Dinosaur; then proceed to Boma for dinner.

Our room.  We didn’t actually go anywhere during the previous paragraph, but that’s okay.  We like just sitting around using our computers!  So today at the hotel is pretty much like most days at our house, except that Wifey refuses to get a laptop and (of course) left her desktop at home, so she and I have to alternate on my computer while the kids each use their own equipment.

Landscape of Flavors (3:55pm).  Get a brownie to use up a “snack credit” from our free dining plan.

Our room.  More computer fun!

Boma (inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, 6:50pm).  $194.36 for an upscale African-themed buffet.  It’s very good, but costs more than twice as much as we usually spend on dinner.  This restaurant is on a different dining plan than ours, so we actually have to pay for this food.

Zawadi (inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, 7:10pm).  Gift shop.  Get a bag of pretzels to use up another “snack credit”.  It will be a gift to a 15-yo kid in our homeschooling group who has sworn off refined sugar.  Also, it has no chocolate so hopefully will survive a trip to Canada through 90°F temperatures.
      Kid #2 spends $5.28 on a souvenir rock (missing receipt).  Kid #1 spends $8.47 on a Mickey pin (missing receipt).

pyesetz: (woof)

[My HOTTEST DAY *EVER* at Disney World!  97°F *before* factoring in humidity!  Ontario, Ohio, Florida — doesn’t make a difference, it’s been over 90 every day of this trip.  And Hollywood Studios is the hottest of the parks because its many tall buildings and excessive quantities of asphalt create an “urban canyon” effect.]

Ink and Paint (inside Art of Animation Resort, 9:55am).  $12.40 for Imodium and Benadryl at the gift shop, for Wifey and Kid #1.  The cashier expresses her condolances.

Our room.  My family is out of shape and yesterday involved much more walking than our usual, and in very high temperatures.  So we start our day late and end early, which once again requires rejiggering all our FastPass™ appointment times.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Attractions visited today: The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Muppet★Vision 3D, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, ABC Commissary (lunch, 2:56pm), Toy Story Midway Mania, and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (only Kid #2 and I).
      Midway Mania is new.  Unlike most Disney rides, it has no storyline; you just shoot at virtual targets while wearing 3D glasses and sitting in a rotating vehicle that’s moving along a serpentine track.  Kid #2 gets the most points in our vehicle.
      Our children are too old to enjoy the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, so Wifey takes a photo of them standing on either side of a giant ant.  Some other kid decided to sit on top of the ant during the photo, so I guess we’ll have to try out our PhotoShop skills when we get home.  I take a photo of Kid #1 going down a giant leaf-slide because we have a photo of her doing that back in 2001.
      Kid #1 used to like Tower of Terror, but she decided to skip it for this trip.  Kid #2 has never been on it, so I take him.  He doesn’t like being yanked violently downward in total darkness with nothing to hold on to but a seatbelt, so we ride only once even though the standby line is short.
      At the ABC Commissary, they are showing America’s Funniest Home Videos from 1994, so the children having pratfalls in the videos are now all grown up.  ABC had required video submitters to relinquish all rights without any compensation except for each show’s winner, so when Disney bought ABC in 1996 they gained the legal right to display these videos for the amusement of park guests, even if the people in the videos hate Disney and would never have agreed to having their pratfalls (some of them painful) commoditized like this.  As Billy Joel sang, “I’ll get put in the back, in the discount rack, like another can of beans”.
      Wifey has never seen the “Fantasmic” fireworks/laser show.  But it doesn’t start until 30 minutes after the park closes, and it’s very hot and we just want to get out of here.  So she still hasn’t seen it, and this is our only scheduled day at Hollywood Studios.

Landscape of Flavors (8:17pm).  Dinner at our resort.  Kid #2 announces that his pizza is not sitting well in his stomach, so I tell him he can just go back to our room.  Wifey then quickly finishes up her dinner and walks after him to check whether her 17-year-old son made it back to our building or is retching in the bushes someplace (actually his stomach settled down after he left the cafeteria).  Kid #1 and I finish our dinners and then rejoin the others in our room.

Our room.  Kid #2’s right ear still doesn’t hear well.  I give him a pseudoephedrine tablet, but it doesn’t help.  We decide that we are trying too hard on this vacation and need to take the day off tomorrow, which is forecast to be (surprise!) yet another scorcher.

pyesetz: (woof)

[Today begins with the discovery that I cannot find my keyring (none of the keys are in use here in Florida) and ends with the discovery of the keyring in the “receipts” pouch of my suitcase, where it should have been all along (and presumably actually *was* there all along, despite my inability to find it).]

W. Osceola Parkway.  $1 in tolls, which Google did not mention in their driving directions.  It is an unattended tollbooth that accepts only coins.  Thankfully we had brought enough leftover US coinage with us from Canada to be permitted off this highway.  (Presumably, if we hadn’t, the only other option would be to pay whatever Alamo feels like charging for the scofflaw fine from the tollbooth’s video camera.)

Walmart (Kissimmee FL, 12:15pm).  Buy two TracFone® cellular telephones, so we can split up at the theme parks.  We have to buy disposable phones because Wifey’s fliphone offers only Canadian service and has no SIM card to swap out, while Kid #1’s smartphone is locked to a Canadian vendor and is too difficult/expensive to unlock for use with an American SIM card.  Each TracFone costs $9.84, but then the cheapest airtime for them is $24.94 for 200 minutes usable within 150 days.  Total with 7% tax = $74.43 for a pair of phones that should still be usable during our next trip to Massachusetts.
      The Walmart salesclerk performs the initial phone activation for us, which takes about ten minutes per phone.  The second phone has a slight scratch on the screen, so she insists on exchanging it for a third phone, which requires waiting for authorization to cancel an activation, which takes even more time.  But the phones are small and thin and functional, and offer a cute “echoing” effect when you have one of them call the other while holding them next to each other.

Walmart (12:48pm).  $62.05 for foods we wish to have in the room (because the resort’s free food is *so* far away in the adjacent building, and doesn’t offer things like canned tuna and Cheerios).

Walmart parking lot.  I remember having my own keys when getting the key-fob for the rental car, so perhaps I left them in one of the other cars we tried out in the lot?  The rental-car paperwork has no local phone-contact number, so I call Alamo’s national number and spend some time on hold, but don’t get through to anyone before the family starts to get overheated in the car.  (It’s yet another 90°F day.)

Our room (1:45pm).  The box we had shipped via UPS finally arrives!  We had paid $114.76 to have it arrive here before we left Canada and greet us upon arrival, but it was delayed at Customs.  We unpack our Walmart groceries but there is no time to unpack the UPS box from Canada.  The trip to Walmart took so much longer than expected that now we need to rearrange our FastPass™ appointment times at the park.  This requires use of the MyDisneyExperience app, which is installed only on Kid #1’s smartphone.

Magic Kingdom Park (2:45pm).  Being the oldest part of the Walt Disney World complex, the Magic Kingdom is one of the few things around here whose name doesn’t begin with “Disney’s” or some variation on that.  (Construction for Walt Disney World began almost 50 years ago; in the meantime it has become unfashionable to use apostrophes in business names.)  Because we are arriving so late, many people have already left for the day, so we are able to find an empty parking space up by the Transportation & Ticket Center so we can skip the tram and actually walk in to the monorail station.  It takes an *HOUR* to get from our hotel to Main Street USA, even though we never leave the sprawling Disney property (which covers 43 square miles).
      Attractions visited today: Walt Disney Railroad, Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain (except Wifey), Big Thunder Mountain (except Wifey), Country Bear Jamboree (except me), Pecos Bill’s (lunch, 2:59pm), Hall of Presidents (Wifey only), Haunted Mansion, Columbia Harbor House (dinner, 8:14pm), Mickey’s PhilHarmagic, It’s a Small World (Wifey only), and Peter Pan’s Flight.
      There were no out-of-pocket expenses at the park.  It seems Disney has finally gotten the hang of what the phrase “all-inclusive resort” is supposed to mean.  I’m not sure why they decided to hand out receipts showing “$0.00” as the price for dining-plan purchases — shouldn’t they list their regular price and then a giant discount at the bottom to cancel it all out?  That’s how it looks at the register.
      Kid #2 doesn’t like travel and has been mopey for the entire trip so far.  But Big Thunder Mountain brings a smile to his face!  He also likes getting soaked in the front seat of Splash Mountain.  We go on both of those rides twice each, once via FastPass™ and once via the stand-by lines.

Landscape of Flavors (11:01pm).  Snack for Wifey.

Our room.  Kid #2 takes a shower.  He gets some water in his right ear (or was it Splash Mountain?).  Now he can’t hear anything in that ear.  I give him ibuprofen, but it doesn’t help.

pyesetz: (woof)
A horse walks into a bar.  The barman says "Why the long face?"  The horse says "As an anthropomorphic horse, I fit in neither with humans nor my own kind, and have thus lived a life of loneliness."

A horse walks into a bar.  The bartender says, "Why the long face?"  The horse says, "Because I'm an alcoholic and it's killing my family."

A horse walks into a bar.  The bartender asks the horse if he's an alcoholic considering all the bars he frequents, to which the horse replies "I think not."  POOF!  The horse disappears.
      This is the point in time when all the philosophy students in the audience begin to giggle, as they are familiar with the philosophical proposition of Cogito ergo sum, or "I think, therefore, I am".
      But to explain the concept beforehand would be putting Descartes before the horse.

A neutrino walks through a bar.

* * * * *

In other news, my mother died on Saturday.  6pm Israel time.  I heard about it five hours later, which was only an hour before the funeral on the other side of the world, so I couldn't possibly attend.  She had been on a respirator and a feeding tube for her last hour of life.
pyesetz: (woof)

Oct. 29, day 7: Drive from New York to Ontario

Best Western (Liverpool NY, 2:46am).  Yet another bill-under-the-door.  Only $111.76 for a 2-queen room — and the pool is heated!  Looks like we’ll be back here next time, although the side-by-side beds caused Kid #1 to be quite unhappy with Wifey’s breathing noises.  When we were last here in 2007, the neighbouring airport was very noisy, but no problem this time.

US Postal Service (Liverpool NY, 10:43am).  $4.17 for delivery of an item to New Jersey and for a box to mail it in.  The item is my old E-ZPass transponder, which hasn’t worked since 2009 or so yet they keep charging me $1/month for it.  The return address printed on the transponder is no longer valid, so I had to call them to get the new address.
      I just checked my E-ZPass account balance and an “adjustment” was made to my account on Nov. 4th.  I now have a $50 credit balance.  Anyone wanna place a bet as to whether I ever see that money?

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics (Amherst NY, 1:59pm).  Wifey paid $46.91 for sewing stuff, mostly for Kid #1’s birthday present.

Tops (Amherst NY, 3:00pm).  $134.87 to stock up on inexpensive American groceries for our Canadian pantry.  Includes canned gefilte fish and mass quantities of turkey pepperoni, chocolate baking morsels, and AA batteries.

Tops (3:02pm).  As a thank-you gift for our preceding purchase, the machine spat out a coupon for a 75¢ discount on our next purchase.  Kid #2 noticed a pack of gum for 79¢, so we bought it to use up the coupon.  With tax, the net cost of the gum was 11¢.

Key Bank (inside Tops, 3:02pm).  Get $20 to ensure that we can pay for tolls on the way home, but it turned out that we already had (barely) enough cash — so now we have USD $20 to hold onto for our next trip to the States.  No ATM fee for Key Bank, but $3 fee for our bank plus the exchange rate was $23.07.

Tops lottery vending machine.  Once again, Wifey buys an instant ticket for $1 which wins $2.  She also buys a $2 Powerball ticket for the evening’s drawing (it didn’t win anything).

Wegman’s (Amherst NY, 3:35pm).  $52.63 for salad bar lunch.  Still pretty good, but notably lower quality than last time.  Robert Wegman died eight years ago.  Things change after the founder dies: stores become less distinctive and more like every other store, because that’s the “safe” move for an MBA executive.

Wegman’s (4:48pm).  $463.59 for even more groceries, including mass quantities of boneless chicken breast, peanut butter, horseradish cheddar, Hebrew National® hot dogs, and — as usual — 160 cans of “Wegman’s Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water” (which costs half as much as similar products in Canada).  Wegman’s might not be as distinctive as they used to be, but you can’t argue with their prices!  In fact, they have the same Sea Dog blueberry ale from Maine that I bought at Shaw’s in Massachusetts — but Wegman’s price is about 20% lower.  Oh well.

Wegman’s parking lot.  We bought too much stuff on this trip!  Wifey spends considerable time jamming everything into the trunk.  Eventually she gets it all in *and* leaves enough open space down the middle of the van so the rearview mirror will work.  She is amazing.

Delta Sonic (Amherst NY, 5:38pm).  $50 for gasoline.  This station is very close to Tops and Wegman’s, so we generally stop here before beginning the long drive home.  Once again, prepayment is necessary due to rampant American xenophobia.  No zipcode means no right to a receipt showing how much gas you got for your money!

Canadian border (Queenston ON).  Border guard waives us through, perhaps in part because we have Canadian passports.  Once again, no sales tax on our declared $1000ºº of imported goods!

Our house.  After bringing in the food from the car, I looked in the fridge and said, “Hey, know what we forgot to buy?  Fridge light bulbs!”  Both of them had failed just before we went on our trip.

Oct. 30, day 8: The day after

Country Paws (St. Agatha ON, 10:53am).  $165.20 for a week’s stay at a dog kennel.  That’s $20/day plus tax plus $1 per day to feed him a customer-provided chewable beef-flavoured arthritis pill that’s no trouble at all to administer because he likes it.  And the dog came home with a limp, so either they didn’t actually give him all the pills or he overexerted himself (which he often does at the kennel).

Home Hardware (New Hamburg ON, 3:46pm).  $5.53 for a pair of lightbulbs specially designed to provide “true daylight colour” inside a fridge.

Oct. 31, day 9: The day after the day after

Our house.  Halloween party.  We had only two guests over.  After trick-or-treating and then some trading, each of my kids ended up with a gallon-sized bag filled solely with candies that they actually liked.  What a nice neighbourhood!

Nov. 2, day 11: The last day

Carl’s Jr. parking lot (Waterloo ON).  Presented the items to my furiend, but he didn’t want to do the Furry thing I had in mind, so the whole exercise turned out to be pointless.  He gave me USD $12 for the Cheez-Its and Starbucks (even though he also had Canadian money in his wallet), so now I have even more US cash to hold onto for the next trip.  I gave him the blueberry ale as a consolation prize.

pyesetz: (woof)

Hawthorn Suites (Franklin MA, 3:27am).  Slipped under our door, which is apparently what every hotel does nowadays.  $546.90 for four days’ stay.  At least this time the pool was working.  But the entire hotel was taken over by a wedding party, so we got a “Bedroom studio” (which is not a 1-bedroom at all) rather than the “Bedroom suite” we had wanted for better separation between kidlets and parents.  Staff wasn’t very accommodating, so it’s unclear whether we’ll stay here again.  Perhaps we’ll try another look around online, but we keep coming back here because it’s the cheapest place in Eastern Mass that has suite rooms and (usually) lets us have one.

Shaw’s (Franklin MA, 11:15am).  $44.17 for groceries, including three boxes of Cheez-Its with specific flavours that my furiend had asked for (he loves Cheez-Its almost as much as I do) and also another test-box of “original” flavour for myself (boxes with the same lot number that I tested on day 3 are now sold out).  While in the check-out line, I notice that they are selling cans of “Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso+cream”, which the furiend had also asked for.  It is the last item on my shopping list for him!

Shaw’s (11:20am).  The test-box is fine, so I buy 18 more boxes of Cheez-Its for $31.41.

Hess (Franklin MA, 11:26am).  $30 for gasoline.  This is the first time that a gas station in Massachusetts has discriminated against me due to my unAmerican postal code.  The receipt does not indicate price-per-gallon nor total gallons purchased.
      I used to like Hess in New Jersey.  I do not recall when they started selling gas in Massachusetts.  Wikipedia says it was before 2013, but I suspect it may have been after 2011 or surely after 2007.  Anyway, all “Hess” gas stations will be rebanded as “Speedway” by 2017.

Massachusetts Turnpike.  Tolls.  No receipt.

New York Thruway.  Tolls.  No receipt.

Golden Corral (Colonie NY, 2:32pm).  $41.41 for lunch.  Not as good as we remembered, perhaps because the previous visit had been at dinnertime so they served steak (also it was a different franchisee).  Golden Corral is very proud that they are the world’s largest purchaser of Brussels sprouts, but the sprouts were not cooked very well (or perhaps they would have been better at noon).  The hamburger was quite disappointing.  Still, the salad bar was good and worth the price on its own.

pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Because every visit to Massachusetts should include a trip to the MoS!

Museum of Science exhibit halls (Boston MA, 11:51am).  Finally, we’re doing something during this trip that Kid #2 can actually enjoy!  $92 for a family of four.  The overly-geeky ticket machine announced that it would be printing five tickets, but one of them was just a ticket-shaped receipt.  Oddly enough, I can’t find that receipt now, just my own ticket-stub.
      Kid #1 spent much of her time at the museum off with some online friends she had never met before but who live in this area.  We were supposed to meet up with them near the giant T. Rex statue, but the statue has been replaced with a less-imposing one that shows a more realistic stance for the animal.  Later, I found that the old statue (which Wifey and I remember from when we were kids) had been moved outside to the station where you can take an amphibious bus tour of Boston.  Even later, I learned that Hammacher Schlemmer is selling a T. Rex model that has been cleverly designed so you can pose it either way (“15' tall as if surveying the landscape or 12' tall as if lunging for prey”).
      I did not speak directly to Kid #1’s friends.  The two things they have in common with her are ⑴ nonstandard sexuality and ⑵ fondness for Star Trek.  As the friends were preparing to leave the museum, I asked Kid #1 whether she had told them about Star Trek Continues.  She had not, so she then launched into a description of the video that her uncle had found, which they thought was interesting.  So we were all united by the love of geeky old TV shows!
      My kids remember from previous trips the exhibit where you pedal a bicycle to energize a lightbulb — and a skeleton on another bicycle keeps pace with you.  That exhibit is gone now.  Instead, they now have wristbands where you can try out various health exhibits and then go to their website to see how you did.  I did not like that you are forbidden to do the same exhibit more than once on the same wristband, although I can imagine crowd-control reasons why they wanted it to work that way.  But the website’s behaviour is less excusable: you have to clear cookies in order to enter a different wristband ID number.  You know, there’s such a thing as “trying too hard” to remember something the user once typed in!  And there is no reason not to display the ID number that goes with the data you are currently showing.  Anyway, to see my results, go to and type in my ID number 01564722.
      The 500 kilovolt Tesla coils and the 5 megavolt Van de Graaf generator are still just as sparky and noisy as ever!  I am not sure whether they taught the Tesla coils some new songs to sing since last time.
      For me, the worst exhibit was the live talk about Love Canal, which contained politically-correct lies designed to make Americans feel better about their country than it deserves.  First off, the Superfund was not a “law passed by the EPA” because the EPA does not pass laws.  Only Congress can do that, and the Constitution prohibits them from delegating that responsibility although they are constantly trying to.  Second, the point of Superfund is not to “make those responsible pay for the cleanup”.  Just the opposite, in fact: Superfund is a way of getting these things cleaned up *without* making those responsible pay for it, because otherwise nothing would ever happen except motion practice for lawyers.  But the museum didn’t want to tell the kids that (perhaps in fear of losing some of their funding), so a science museum lied to children about the politics behind the science.  This sort of thing used to happen all the time in the Soviet Union, and apparently still happens today in North Korea.  I remember a time when the USA was better than that.

Museum of Science cafeteria “Wolfgang Puck catering” (3:20pm).  $27.55 for crappy museum food.  Chef Puck should be ashamed to have his name on this restaurant.  I mean, it’s actually pretty good food for a museum cafeteria, and maybe the entrées are well-made on Donors’ Nights, but you can’t turn hamburgers and French fries into gourmet cuisine by slapping some famous chef’s name on your fast-food stand.

Museum of Science gift shop.  $7.42 for a “Boston” fridge magnet and also some rocks for Kid #2’s collection.

Museum of Science parking garage (5:23pm).  $17.75 for six hours’ rent of a parking space.  Not bad for Boston!

Outback Steakhouse (Bellingham MA, 8:55pm).  $79.28 for dinner.

Market Basket (Bellingham MA).  $50 for a Christmas gift-card for BIL #3 and his family.

pyesetz: (arctic-fox)

Cousins’ house (Attleboro MA).  Visit my brother-in-law (BIL #3), his wife (SIL #2), and their three kids.  Also BIL #2 stopped by during the visit, but without his wife SIL #3.  I wish the BIL and SIL numbering weren’t so silly, but that’s pseudonymous life for you.
      Cousin #1 is now 13 and a fairly-stereotypical Asperger’s kid, given to loud self-centered speeches followed by storming off to play by himself.  I kept looking at this kid and thinking, “I wasn’t that bad, was I?” but it is impossible to know.  Anyway, I think he’s going to turn out just fine.
      Although there had never been any mention of it by email, BIL #3’s household has been vegan for over a year now, so our cheesecake was rejected (but the cookies were okay as a special-occasion treat).  Once again, SIL #2 served spaghetti, meatballs, salad, and garlic bread — this time the meatballs were faux, yet still tasty enough.
      BIL #3 showed us his most excellent find: Star Trek Continues.  It is amazing that one guy (Vic) built the sets, wrote the script, and cast himself as the chief BAD guy!  Pretty much everything that is wrong with this show (implausible motivations, convenient mistakes by bad guys so the good guys can always win, etc.) is a faithful copy of things that were wrong with the original series.  Too bad they couldn’t get funding for more episodes.
      I played Apples to Apples: Disney with Kid #1, Wifey, Cousin #2, and Cousin #3.  Some of the cousins’ moves were poorly thought out, such as playing an Evil Mommy card when my wife was the judge!  But they’re only 11 and 9 years old and it takes a lot of experience to predict how others will feel about moves that seem right to you.
      We spent some time discussing what a great place Canada is.  They did not mention how much they hate living in the USA (because you do not say such things out loud while living in a non-free country).  At one point, Cousin #1 announced that he was moving to Canada when he turns 18, causing his father to say, “No you’re not”.  So then Wifey and I went into our usual spiel about how it took five years to get permission to cross the border, and 12 years in total to go from “we should move to Canada” to “we have Canadian passports”.  And I *still* have never held a local job!
      There was some discussion about the pending settlement of my mother-in-law’s estate, but really there was nothing to say.
      Wifey picked up some purchases that had been mailed to the cousins’ house to avoid Canadian-import difficulties.  The package came with a nicely-itemized packing list, but the packages from Rainbow Resource Center did not specify how much they cost, which could have led to difficulties with sales tax at the Canadian border.
      BIL #2 said that he and his wife were thinking of visiting Toronto next year to see a sports game.  My house is “only” 90 minutes west of Toronto, so he might stop by for a visit.  Hopefully he won’t get lost on the way.

A maze of twisty residential streets, all alike (Attleboro MA).  We missed a turn leaving the cousins’ house and spent some time going in circles trying to get out of their housing development.

Panera Bread (Plainville MA, 7:00pm).  $44.83 for dinner.  I had read recently that Panera is now considered a better value than McDonald’s, which seemed odd because I used to think of them as overpriced.  Well, times change!  For only $7 I got a tuna sandwich, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and a piece of tasty French baguette.  We would never have found this place if we hadn’t missed the turn onto US route 1 in order to get back to Interstate 495 towards our hotel.

pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
(A₁ is my father’s sister.  She is the only person I knew before my 18th birthday who is both still alive and also still on speaking terms with me.  A₂ was my grandmother’s sister, who died 30 years ago but her estate is *still* unsettled to this very day, because lawyers.)

Interstate 495 (Franklin MA, 12:15pm).  A₁’s house is north of our hotel, so I get on I-495 North even though our pre-printed directions stated that I should use I-495 South to get to I-95 North towards her house.  (I-495 is a semicircle around Exurban Boston and so “North” actually means “clockwise”, while I-95 cuts through Suburbia.)  It is a typical fault of dogs that they can’t grasp the idea of deliberately going the wrong way for awhile in order to get to a spot where they can more effectively go the right way — but humans are supposed to be smarter than that!  It is a typical fault of male humans that they hate reversing direction, so I decide to continue on I-495 North for awhile and then cut over to I-95 — but Exurban Boston is much more built up now than when I was a kid and the roads all have a lot more traffic and stoplights than I remember.  So once again the trip takes *twice* as long as Google Maps had predicted.

Golden Temple (Brookline MA, 1:49pm).  $75.60 for Chinese food to bring over to A₁’s house.  We had told them to prepare the food for 1pm pickup, but thankfully it was still warm enough to eat.

A₁’s house (Brookline MA).  Visit with my aunt.  Unlike previous visits, she did not dismiss her home health aides for the day because she can no longer function without them.  She had a stroke last year and lost much of her hearing.  Also she had pneumonia earlier this year (which was news to us) and has lost most of the remaining function in her one good leg.  But — just like her mother — the mind remains sharp to the end.
      We spent some time talking about her paternal grandfather, who remains relevant because Wifey likes to talk about genealogy online and keeps finding extended family members who are related through my great-grandpa; he was a Shochet who arrived in the USA as a penniless immigrant and then got heavily into real estate and ended up gifting a separate house to each of his children.  To hear my aunt talk, Great Grandpa was also an inveterate liar who could never tell the straight story of why he no longer spoke to his siblings.
      I brought up the subject of the lawyer who grabbed control of A₂’s estate.  Apparently he is still dribbling money to A₁ to help pay for the heavy equipment she needs to help her get in and out of her wheelchair.  He insulted me 20 years ago and I have been waiting for vengeance ever since.  But he’s getting old himself and maybe he’ll die before A₁ does and I won’t have to figure out how to make that criminal let go of the money without having to go to jail myself.  When you’re fighting an evil lawyer, the entire government is against you, even though that guy is associated with one of the largest tax frauds in the history of Massachusetts (according to one newspaper article I found).
      It is unclear how much time A₁ has left, but it isn’t much.  We told her we’ll try to visit again next year.

Shaw’s (Franklin MA, 7:01pm).  $66.06 for groceries, including salad bar for dinner, a cheesecake and a box of cookies for the cousins, Chanukkah candles, a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay (on sale for $5!), a six-pack of Sea Dog blueberry wheat ale, and two boxes of Sunshine Cheez-Its.
      The Cheez-Its are BOGO; on these trips to the States we usually stock up on Cheez-Its at either Tops or Wegman’s in New York, whichever is cheaper, but obviously they can’t beat this half-off sale.  The store clerk says the sale will run until day 8 of our trip, so we plan to sample these boxes and then come back for more.  We still buy a “test” box of Cheez-Its before buying mass quantities of boxes with that same lot number, even though it’s been years since the last time Sunshine made a bad batch (with a metallic taste).
      The ale is for a furiend whom I’m trying to soften up for (something); he asked me to get him a “surprise” when I visited the States.  He once tweeted that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”.  He often visits New York to buy beer, so I wanted to get him a Massachusetts microbrew blueberry ale that he couldn’t get for himself.  But instead I got the Sea Dog (which is a widely-distributed product from Maine) because it has paw-prints on the bottle caps!

pyesetz: (woof)
(Yet again, this distance took just about exactly *twice* as long to cover as Google Maps had estimated.)

Herkimer Motel (Herkimer NY).  A receipt for $124.49 for one night’s stay is slipped under our door in the wee hours of the morning, but the credit-card charge slip says it was run through at 9:54pm last night.  This will be our last stay at the Herkimer, which will be changing its name to “Red Roof Inn” as of November 1st.  The owner assures all guests that nothing will change because he is merely “affiliating” with Red Roof, not selling out to them.  We decide to give this hotel another chance on our next trip, whenever that will be.  We always stay here because the rooms are huge and “60% of the total trip” is just about right for one day’s travel.

Advance Auto Parts (Herkimer NY, 11:03am).  I look in my car’s owner’s manual and determine that it needs a type 9007 headlight bulb.  Replacement requires removal of three screws, a retaining ring, and the electrical connector.  Installation requires not getting any oily substance (such as human sweat) onto the glass bulb.  The store offers multiple models of 9007 headlights at different prices, but I have no idea which one to get so I pay $11.90 for the mid-range.  My tools are all at home, so the store lets me borrow a screwdriver — but the screws are all torqued too tight, so they loan me a hex ratchet, which is effective.  Kid #2 helps with the repair.
      While Kid #2 and I are at it, I am reminded of the phrase “working together on the car”, which was used by [ profile] ozarque (Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, b. 1936, fl. 1965‒2011, frontotemporal dementia) to invoke a scene where boys are working together towards an intellectual goal, rather than belittling each other or fist-fighting.  You see, the car actually matters, so the boys actually think about how to make it work.  But cars nowadays are too difficult for most boys.  In my life it has usually been “working together on the computer program” but few kids today write their own software.  So I don’t know what the modern version of this scene would be.  Perhaps “working together on their MMORPG character stats”?
      So anyway, I take the new bulb out of its packaging and place it next to the old one to demonstrate that it is in fact an identical replacement.  Then I put it back in the package and place it on the engine while attempting to disconnect the old bulb, pontificating all the while about how getting any oil on the new bulb will drastically shorten its life.  But while wrestling with the old bulb and its connector, I manage to jostle the wire-harness.  This causes the new bulb to fall into the depths of the engine, which of course is covered everywhere with oily grime.  Oops!  Kid #2 is a polite fellow and does not laugh.  But the day is saved because the bulb did not fall out of its opened package and remains untouched by oils.  I make some comment about how important it is to keep the bulb in its package until use, then insert the bulb into the lens-assembly while thinking of the kids’ game Operation.  Touch nothing on the way in!
      Success!  The new headlight works great!

New York Thruway.  Pay toll; no receipt.

Massachusetts Turnpike.  Massive traffic jam!  As we near an exit, there is a sign announcing “bridge work ahead; seek alternate route”.  We are unable to determine whether the jam will end soon when we reach a bridge or whether it will go on for many more miles, so we take the exit and pay the toll.  We do not have a roadmap of Massachusetts in the glove compartment.  The only relevant map is for “Eastern USA”.  It suggests that we can take some minor-league state and national highways to get to MA route 9, which Wifey and I remember from our student days at UMass.  The detour is only an inch on the map, but each map-inch represents 1,385,000 inches in real life.  Two hours later, we finally locate Route 9.  It would almost certainly have been faster to just crawl along with the traffic jam.

McDonald’s (Belchertown MA, 3:48pm).  After finding Route 9, we stop at a CVS to buy a map — but they don’t have any.  We try a gas station, but they don’t sell maps anymore because everyone has a smartphone these days.  This causes Kid #1 to gripe yet again about how far behind the times our family is, with one crappy “feature phone” shared by the entire household.  But she could just buy her own smartphone if she *really* wanted one.  Anyway, we stop at McDonald’s to access Google Maps on our laptops.  $10.67 for snacks.  I get a chocolate shake, which gives me a brain freeze and then later I have flatus.  Apparently I’m starting to get lactose-intolerant in my old age.

MA route 9.  In Eastern Mass., this highway is a fairly straight East-West route, but in Central Mass. it is a winding road.  I vaguely remember that I avoided this route when driving to my parents’ house from UMass because it took four hours (vs. three hours for MA route 2 further north, or only 1½ hours for the Mass. Pike on a good day).  Anyway, we eventually get to Interstate 495 and return to our pre-printed directions from Google.

99 Restaurant & Pub (Franklin MA, 8:11pm).  The girls get chicken broccoli penne (but hold the broccoli for Kid #1, add house chardonnay for Mommy), while the boys get the 9oz top sirloin (medium rare for Kid #2, medium for Daddy).  This restaurant chain is named for the address of its original location at 99 State St. in Boston.  Only $68.72 with taxes and tip!

Stop & Shop (Franklin MA, 8:20pm).  $47.25 for 15.651 gallons of gasoline at $3.01⁹/gal.  This was the only gas-pump during the entire trip that didn’t refuse my business due to lack of a zipcode!

pyesetz: (woof)

Yup, I drove the family to Massachusetts and back again.  First time since 2011.  Kid #1 still has her “G1” licence, so she was not able yet to assist with the driving.

The 2011 trip was dedicated to my deceased brother-in-law, so this trip should be about my deceased mother-in-law.  Initial dribbles from her estate paid for this trip (and have also put food on our table these past few months), but the bulk of the money hasn’t been released yet.  Damned lawyers!  The will is uncontested, so there’s no excuse for all these delays.

Oct. 23rd, day 1: Drive from Ontario to New York

(We ran into multiple traffic jams, so this drive took *twice* as long as Google Maps had estimated.)

Country Paws (St. Agatha ON, 10:55am).  Drop-off time at the dog kennel is 11am; I make it with a few minutes to spare.

Our house (11:30am).  Pack the car with things and family — and we’re off to the States!

US border (Lewiston NY).  40 minute wait, which is quite a bit longer than our recent average.  It seems most cars with Ontario plates are getting searched — but they waive ours through, perhaps in part because we have US passports.

Wegman’s (Amherst NY, 2:53pm).  $4 for a four-pack of pumpkin muffins on sale.  (At end of trip, one muffin was still uneaten.)

Tops (Amherst NY, 3:28pm).  $27.20 for groceries, mostly Halloween candy and snack foods that are on sale this week but won’t be next week when we stop back here on our way home.  Also included is a box of Cheez-Its, which is going to be the “theme snack food” for this trip.

Tops lottery vending machine.  Wifey buys a instant lottery ticket for $1, which wins $2!  She also buys a $2 Powerball ticket for the Oct. 25 drawing (it didn’t win anything).

New York Thruway rest area (6:15pm).  Withdraw $40 for US spending money.  M&T Bank charges me a $3 “withdrawal convenience fee”, while my own bank charges a $3 “foreign exchange convenience fee”, plus their exchange rate is poor, so it costs me CAD $52.75 to get USD $40 out of the ATM.  A good rate would have cost perhaps CAD $44.
      Wifey buys another lottery ticket for $1, which doesn’t win.

New York Thruway exit (New Hartford NY).  The toll collector says, “You know your headlight’s out?”  I thank him and tell him I didn’t know — but that sure explains why it’s been so difficult to drive tonight!

Olive Garden (New Hartford NY, 8:47pm).  $80.35 for dinner.  Everyone gets “endless bowl of pasta” except me.  I refer to it as the “endless wait for pasta” because that’s one of Olive Garden’s tricks for keeping down the number of bowls you actually get.
      After the meal, I tried to buy some gasoline, but my credit card was missing.  I drove back to Olive Garden to retrieve it.  The manager wanted me to show photo ID even though I had the receipt with the matching card number and surely the waitress can remember my face from a few minutes earlier.  Still, a lot less hassle than it could have been.

Sunoco (New Hartford NY, 9:10pm).  Buy $50 of gasoline.  Since 2011 it seems to have become much more common in New York to require entry of a zipcode in order to buy gasoline directly at the pump.  But Canadian postal codes are not “zipcodes”, so I have to go into the convenience store, guess how much gas I will need, and prepay for it — because I am a shifty foreigner whose address lacks the all-numeric zipcode of a trustworthy human being!

pyesetz: (sozont)
I have occasionally used the phrase "gothic horror movie" to describe the recurring themes of my life, and why I felt so at home at Company ℱ, and why I have never wanted to work at RIM or most other companies in my local area (because they are more "gladiator movie" than "gothic horror").  My wife has used "Addams Family" to describe her first visit to my parents' house.

So you can imagine my interest in last Friday's article in the Guardian (or Grauniad as the locals call it), which is entitled "How to Tell You're Reading a Gothic Novel".  I guess I'd rather see this title as "How to Tell You're Living in a Gothic Novel".  Anyway, let us review their helpful hints:

1. The villain is a murderous tyrant with scary eyes

Actually not.  I have had a variety of opponents in my life, most of whom did not have especially-scary eyes.  One notable exception was that four-year-old kid I met when I was six.  Aaaaaah!  On the other paw, lots of people have commented that my eyes are scary, so maybe I'm supposed to be the villain?  But I always try to be a good little monster!  I have never murdered anything larger than a flounder, although I have been indirectly involved in the senseless killings of several innocent dogs (may their souls RIP in Heaven).  The notches on my metaphorical pistol refer mainly to the destroyed careers of various evil-doers who were stupid enough to pick fights with me after I told them not to.  Just go away and nobody will get hurt!  But they wouldn't listen.

2. The heroine is a pious virginal orphan, prone to fainting.

I don't know WTF this is supposed to be talking about.  What does morphine diacetate have to do with virginity?  No swoons for me; Victor Frankenstein I ain't!  Though sometimes I wish I could just sleep through the bad periods when there's nothing I can do about my problems.  And since when are orphans known for their piety?  My father is dead and I actually don't know whether my mother still lives.

3. It's set in a spooky castle or stately home.

Not exactly.  But this item has sub-items, so let's review those:

3a. Built in Gothic period: No, my house dates from 1870.  It's old, but not that old.

3b. In a poor state of repair: Yes, the wooden front porch is rotting and needs replacement before it collapses.

3c. In the middle of nowhere: Well, the city folks think so, but really it's only a 15-minute drive from here to Canada's Technology Triangle.

3d. Haunted/cursed: Not really.  My previous house was haunted by the spirit of a little girl who was really, really unhappy that she had to move to Singapore — but I think she was gone by the time we left there, and I have no idea if the folks who bought the house from us thought we were still haunting the place (I insisted on moving to Canada, so the rest of the family got dragged along with me).  My sister used to say about our parent's last house together that it was some sort of spiritual way-station because so many non-corporeal entities passed through it on their way to ¿someplace else? But really the house was just creaky and the spirits had nothing to do with that.

3e. Has a fobidden wing and/or secret passages: Yes!  My house has a variety of inaccessible areas.  The largest is under the mud-room, which I can shine a light into from the basement walk-out but I never see anything.  So far as I know, nothing lives in there except occasionally a family of squeaky little shrews will move in for breeding season.

3f. Has a reclusive and/or sinister owner: Yes, I am left-handed.


4. There is (probably) a ghost or monster

[I like the footnote on this item that refers specifically to Southern Ontario gothic novels.]

I guess this one applies, but let's look at the subcategories:

4a. Ghost: Not currently, I think.  But I was medically dead once and almost-dead another time, so maybe this life is all a dream?  The final episode of Roseanne was the best!

4b. Monster: I sometimes identify as a therian, which is sort of like a furry only totally not.

4c. Witch/sorceress: I'll let my wife answer this one.

4d. Vampire: No, it's a werewolf!  Werewolves are not vampires!  (*spits into mike*) Is this thing on?  A werewolf, I tell you‼  Sheesh.

4e. The Devil: No, although some people have claimed that I should have "666" tattooed on my forehead.  But really, Arabic numerals would make no sense — it should be "DCLXVI" for proper Latin.  Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc. I said that once (in English) to a lawyer who was trying to depose me.

4f. Not really a ghost at all: It was nice of them to include the footnote here about Scooby Doo, which jumped its shark in later years when the monsters were reimagined as "real" within the story universe.


5. It's set in the olden days.

Hey, we're on Internet time now.  I remember the dark ages before Google, before Wikipedia, before Rule 34, when people actually had to get up and go to the TV and rotate a knob to change the channel.  So, um, yeah.

6. It takes place in foreign parts.

The footnote says this applies if the story takes place in a country that is not where the author was born.  So Canada counts.  And, BTW, I am a citizen now!

7. The weather is always awful.

This is an exaggeration, although there were far too many days with -30° wind-chills last winter.  But next year is supposed to be a monstrous El Niño, so hopefully more to my liking.

8. Anyone who isn't a white middle-class Protestant is frightening.

Yup.  I'm a Jew who lives in a township full of Mennonites.  Be very afraid!

9. The laws of the land are brazenly flouted.

I can't talk about this in a public post, but there are signs that the laws will be a-changing soon to be more to my liking.  The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!

10. People talk funny.

I've been here for seven years and still don't feel like I have a grip on the local accent.

11. So which gothic novels are the best?

I don't know, but not the one I'm living in — that's fer damn sure.

(p.s.: In case you're wondering, the most important sentence in this essay is the last one for point 6 above, which Wifey wanted to know why I hadn't posted yet to this journal.)
pyesetz: (woof)
It was in Massachusetts.  We could not attend for financial reasons, but Cousin #1 held a phone near the priest so my wife could listen in from Ontario.

My mother-in-law was a thoughtful gift-giver.  Some people believe that if you haven't got anything nice to say then you shouldn't say anything at all, so I'll stop there.

Wifey is taking it pretty hard, but I think she'll survive.  Her mother and I were not on speaking terms for many years.

Should I try to find a book entitled 1,001 Disgusting and Perverted Things that Furries do and start going through the list?  Maybe it's too soon for that.


Dec. 21st, 2012 11:36 am
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
Sometimes an entire week goes by between moments when I feel like working at Company 𝔾.  The situation is starting to look similar to my last few years at Company ℱ, where I didn't want to leave because I like being "a big frog in a small pond" and hate job-hunting due to poor health, but I wasn't happy with management so I never felt like working.  A good boss could get me going again, but I don't have one.

I would say "FML", but things seem to be okay at home with the wife and kids.  Money is going to be a problem soon, though.

In Russian, Песец (which can be pronounced "Pyesetz") refers to a fox that's white in the winter and sort of blueish in the summer.  Maybe I should pick a new name.  The other Russian name I got in college was Мчить (don't even try), which perhaps I should use to refer to my weredog.
pyesetz: (Default)

Once upon a time, early last week, I made yet another trip to Buffalo NY to buy groceries.  It needed to be done because our Permanent Resident cards were five years old and about to expire at the end of October.  Immigration Canada is understaffed these days, due to the Recession, so it will take several months to get replacement cards.  The only official purpose for those cards is for gaining re-entry to Canada at the border; now that they’ve expired, we will not be leaving the country anytime soon.

Last July, the children’s passports became five years old and they expired.  Replacing a child’s passport cannot be done by mail and requires a trip to the US consulate in Toronto.  We finally got around to doing that at the end of September.  Actually, the trip wasn't as bad as feared: parking was a pain, the TSA goons at the door were rude, but the inside consulate staff were nice enough.  Kid #1 is now a grown-up and her new passport is good for ten years, while Kid #2 got another five-year kiddie passport.
      During the months between the expiration and the replacement of the children’s passports, Wifey was worried: what would we do if there were a Death In The Family and we had a sudden emergency need to visit the States?  It is against the law for an American citizen to enter that country without showing a US passport if they have one, but what happens if the passport is expired?  I didn’t think it would be such a big deal; surely there would be procedures in place.  We would probably be diverted to the Border Patrol office, have to show alternative ID, get grilled by Blueshirts, then they would let us proceed to the funeral.  Anyway, this didn’t happen.

So we’re on our way to Buffalo, just about to pass the “Last exit in Canada” sign, when Wifey checks the passports to make sure everything is fine… but everything is not fine.  The children are fine, but the parents’ passports expired last July when they became ten years old.  Oopsie!  So now we have to decide whether to turn around and drive an hour back to our house, or brave the border with bad passports.  I made an executive decision to keep going.

At the border, the guard did a double-take when processing the third passport.  I imagine a bright red flashing EXPIRED! indicator on his computer console, but he said nothing.  He asked some unusual questions (e.g., “Have you renounced your US citizenship?”) but nothing specifically about the expired passports.  Eventually he waived us through, without even diverting us to the Big House.

The grocery shopping was uneventful.  We went to the Tops and Wegmans supermarkets as usual.  We spent $800 on this trip, which was the most ever, including over $200 just for canned tuna.  Inflation is bad these days, despite the official lies from the government.

Upon our return to Canada, the border guard was gruff with us.  When we told her we bought $800 worth of food, she asked for the receipts and studied them carefully.  I imagine that she was upset to see $75 worth of boneless skinless chicken breasts (which cost twice as much in Canada because they don’t use undocumented Hispanic serfs in their chicken processing plants).  But perhaps she was less displeased to see that the single largest line-item was the tunafish, which is not caught in Canada so there were no local fishermen that we were refusing to support.  She asked various questions of the form, “Are you going to eat all this food yourselves?”  While there is apparently no sales tax exemption for one-day excursions, no border guard has ever demanded that we pay that tax.  On this day as well we were eventually waived through with no penalty.

Yet another successful shopping trip!


pyesetz: (Default)

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