Archive for December, 2008
OK, one more Disney post and then I’ll stop – I promise.
This one is courtesy of a side conversation with some of the Disney Wonder’s fantastic crew staff. It’s the Top Ten Crazy Things People Say on Cruise Ships. All, I am assured, are true stories:
10. Do these stairs go up?
9. Will this elevator take me to the front of the ship?
8. [While viewing the hundreds of photos the crew staff takes of you during the cruise and then tries to sell you later] How do I know which pictures are mine?
7. Does the crew staff live on-board the ship?
6. [When a chronic complainer who asked #7 was told that no, in fact, a helicopter picks them up every night at 1AM and they commute] I’d like to register a complaint – the helicopter that picked the crew up last night at 1AM made so much noise, it woke me up.
5. [Right after boarding the ship and going to his stateroom, but before the ship left port] I’d like my money back. I asked for a room with a “Sea View,” and when I go out on my veranda, all I can see is the parking lot!
4. [on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island] Will this tram take me to the Animal Kingdom Park? [n.b., Animal Kingdom is one of the parks in Disney World - in Orlando, Florida].
3. Disney really should have told me there was no casino on board – I’m very disappointed.
**Numbers 2 and 1 redacted because they are too dumb to mention here…
(Actually, I only had eight, but who ever heard of a “Top Eight” list? Damn Letterman…)
Better late than never, I always say. Here is The University of Pennsylvania Band (including yours truly) performing at Walt Disney World in January of 2008.
The MST3K-like commentary is from a fellow band alum and her family.
The family and I returned to The Disney Wonder for the fourth time in as many years. This time, we had an extra day in Florida, so we also added a tour of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. I’ll post a full review of the trip at a later point (I realize now that I’ve discussed the parks in these pages, but never the cruise!), but for now, click on Mickey’s face for a photo tour!
NOTE: When the slideshow loads, don’t forget to click “Show Info” in the upper right corner of the screen to read the captions I’ve written. It’ll help explain what you’re looking at.
Well, we did it! Our home renovation is officially complete. All that’s left now is the arrival of two more couches (early January, they promise!) and hanging up a couple more pictures on the walls.
Nothing compared to designing the house, revising the architecture plans, picking out bathroom fixtures, choosing a hot tub, choosing an air tub, selecting a material for the deck, designing a kitchen, buying kitchen appliances, selecting kitchen cabinetry, selecting knobs and handles for cabinetry, deciding where each outlet, Internet jack, phone jack and cable jack would go, choosing the type and location of each and every light fixture, choosing the type of light switch in each room, deciding where each heating and air conditioning vent would go, choosing the air conditioners and heating units themselves, choosing the types of doors we wanted, deciding what kind of door knob or handle would go on each door, picking a wood floor, picking a stain color for the floor, choosing carpeting and area rugs for each room, finding new furniture for the kitchen and family rooms, choosing paint colors for each room, picking mirrors for each bathroom and the front hall, designing our walk-in closets, choosing two ceiling fans, picking out four flat-screen HDTV’s, selecting two home theater systems, determining where audio speakers would go in nine different rooms, and the other two hundred decisions we made in the last six months. Needless to say, it’s been quite a wild ride.
I’ll take credit for the initial design, but most of the credit for the rest of it goes to two people – my wife, Sherry, who was at the job site every single day, briefed me on the way home from work, and then reported back to the foreman all of the decisions that needed making, and David Ginfrida, our contractor, who not only showed up on time, provided us detailed plans and cost estimates, and built us a beautiful home, but did so aheadof schedule. Find another contractor that’ll do all that – I dare ya!
But wait, there’s more! What’s a good house construction project without multimedia!
Those who have been following along on our House Construction photo blog can click over there to see the full set of 183 photos, starting from the day Ginfrida put the big, red sign on our lawn until just this past weekend, when I photographed each finished room in all it’s glory.
Those who are happier with instant gratification (and really, who can blame you) can click on this summary photo set, which contains a more manageable thirty-three (33) photos, showing each completed room of the house without all those pesky construction photos to click through to get there.
And then, of course, there’s video. My House Demolition Video received critical acclaim from its (mostly biased) audience, including one claim of actual tears! The three-part, thirty minute tour of the construction site got more mixed reviews, including words like “fast-forward” and “boring.” The final installment incorporates feedback from the others – it’s set to music, so you don’t have to listen to my not-so-clever narration, and it’s only ten minutes long. Also, it’s right here:
Enjoy the tour, and if you’re ever in North Jersey, drop us a line! We’d love to have you over for the real-life version of the tour. It’s much more satisfying (particularly the part with the hot tub…)
The other day, I slammed the New York Times for running a “Wall Street is Evil” article on the front page.
Yesterday, in the Sunday paper, there was a longer article that went into more detail about the financial crisis. It’s still laced with political invective, but it does a much better job of presenting the history of what happened than the one from last Thursday. Credit where credit is due (no pun intended).
What it shows is an administration suffering from the same things it’s suffered from throughout it’s eight years – a desire to do the right thing, coupled with an inability to waver from an initial decision, and an inability to control the message and/or inspire any confidence:
Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal.As early as 2006, top advisers to Mr. Bush dismissed warnings from people inside and outside the White House that housing prices were inflated and that a foreclosure crisis was looming.
“We absolutely wanted to increase homeownership,” Tony Fratto, his deputy press secretary, recalled him saying. “But we never wanted lenders to make bad decisions.”Advocating homeownership is hardly novel; the Clinton administration did it, too. For Mr. Bush, it was part of his vision of an “ownership society,” in which Americans would rely less on the government for health care, retirement and shelter. But for much of Mr. Bush’s tenure, government statistics show, incomes for most families remained relatively stagnant while housing prices skyrocketed. That put homeownership increasingly out of reach for first-time buyers. So Mr. Bush had to, in his words, “use the mighty muscle of the federal government” to meet his goal. He proposed affordable housing tax incentives. He insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac meet ambitious new goals for low-income lending. Concerned that down payments were a barrier, Mr. Bush persuaded Congress to spend up to $200 million a year to help first-time buyers with down payments and closing costs. And he pushed to allow first-time buyers to qualify for federally insured mortgages with no money down.
Senior aides, like Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s chief political strategist, were wary of overly regulating an industry that, Mr. Rove said in an interview, provided “a valuable service to people who could not otherwise get credit.” While he had some concerns about the industry’s practices, he said, “it did provide an opportunity for people, a lot of whom are still in their houses today.”Today, administration officials say it is fair to ask whether Mr. Bush’s ownership push backfired. Mr. Paulson said the administration, like others before it, “over-incented housing.” Mr. Hennessey put it this way: “I would not say too much emphasis on expanding homeownership. I would say not enough early focus on easy lending practices.”
The plan Mr. Bush announced on Aug. 31 reflected that belief. Called “F.H.A. Secure,” it aimed to help about 80,000 homeowners refinance their loans. Mr. Montgomery, the housing commissioner, said that he knew the modest program was not enough — the White House later expanded the agency’s rescue role — and that he would be “flying the plane and fixing it at the same time.”Instead, Mr. Bush developed Hope Now, a voluntary public-private partnership to help struggling homeowners refinance loans. And he worked with Congress to pass a stimulus package that sent taxpayers $150 billion in tax rebates. In a speech to the Economic Club of New York in March 2008, he cautioned against Washington’s temptation “to say that anything short of a massive government intervention in the housing market amounts to inaction,” adding that government action could make it harder for the markets to recover.In August, Freddie Mac and Fannnie Mae’s stocks lost half their value in a single day, prompting Congress to quickly give Mr. Paulson the power to spend $200 billion to prop them up and to finally pass Mr. Bush’s long-sought reform bill, but it was too late. In September, the government seized control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
A dispassionate review of the administration’s reactions to the crisis, given what was known at the time and ignoring 20/20 hindsight probably ranges somewhere between “cautious” and “over-optimistic.” Of course, no one is the least bit interested in a dispassionate review – only the collection of people who take the (now politically safe) position that Mr. Bush was at least partially at fault.
Here’s the deal:
Repost the first sentence of the first blog entry in each of the previous year’s 12 months.
Seems simple enough, right? Let’s see if twelve month’s initial post’s initial sentences tell a story, shall we?
January: It’s been a long time since an “Internet joke” e-mail contained anything I wanted to see, but these came through my inbox yesterday and I was rather impressed.
February: My officemate was the first person to pick up a MacBook Air from the Apple Store in midtown Manhattan.
March: Well, after two months of down statistics, I guess it’s hardly an accomplishment to say you grew month over month.
April: A quick note to people who wear a tiny diamond chip about halfway up their nose (a la last year’s American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks): unless the light hits it just right, it looks like a zit.
May: For those who wondered where I went again, Blogger took another 5-day hiatus on me.
June: This sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s apparently true: the inventor of the Pringles potato chip can died last month, and his ashes were buried in a Pringles can.
July: So, how long does it take to move a blog from Google’s Blogger tool to WordPress?
August: They say you learn something new everyday.
September: Since I commented on the other big speeches from the Democratic National Convention, I figured I should weigh in on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as well.
October: Disney’s High School Musical 3 opens in London in three weeks, and London movie theaters have already sold more than £500,000 in advance ticket sales.
November: What’s this??
December: Via Glenn Reynolds, a link to eleven cool things you can do with your digital camera that you may not have thought about before.
Well, I guess we can clearly go with “No” on the “do they tell a story” question. In other news, I certainly seem to be scoring pretty high on the variety meter, huh?
Back in November of 1995, my wife and I went on a vacation to California and Las Vegas. Those were the pre-children days, and we did all the normal touristy stuff: Beverly Hills, Hollywood & Vine, tour of the stars’ homes, Rodeo Drive, etc..
One of the big items on our list was to watch a taping of The Price is Right. My wife had been to California on her own years earlier, and had planned to see it, but had arrived at the studio too late (you have to get there at some ungodly hour – like 5:30AM – to get in). Anyway, we got up earlier this time around, got in and watched a taping, and then were asked to stay for a second taping that day, so the studio audience would be full for the cameras.
During that second taping, a man named Bryan played what is commonly agreed to be the most memorable game of PunchBoard in the show’s history. So much so, that when they ran a Price is Right 25th Anniversary Special, they included the clip. Here it is, courtesy of YouTube:
THE INSIDE SCOOP: (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT – watch the video first, then read this). As soon as they went to commercial and the music died down, Bob Barker turned to the audience and said, “What an idiot!” People were still buzzing about what happened and someone must have said something from the audience, because Bob said something to the effect of “I don’t care if he won, he’s still an idiot.” After the taping was over, we were filing out of the studio and Bryan and his wife walked by. The audience was still yelling at him that he should have taken the first prize, but he was smiling from ear to ear and taunting us all with a piece of paper the show had given him (presumably related to his winnings). I was glad for the guy, but Bob Barker was right – when the odds of worsening your position are 61 out of 63, you don’t continue with the game.
Even more amazing, is that my wife and I were able to find ourselves in the audience shots from the show more than thirteen years later. Here we are, just over Bryan’s shoulder:
Not our best photograph to be sure, but there we are…
OK, at a minimum, the website is kind of cool…
Sadly, I’m not being rude. This from Burger King:
Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men’s body spray called “Flame.” The company describes the spray as “the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat.”
The fragrance is on sale at New York City retailer Ricky’s NYC in stores and online for a limited time for $3.99.
Here’s hoping you have a Whopper of a Christmas…
I guess we should have seen this coming, too.