Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2013

The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2013: We got this book hoping it would be slightly useful in helping us pick restaurants for our trip. [1]  If it helped us avoid one bad meal, we figured it would be worth the $20 price tag.[2]

If you are planning to go to Disney World any time soon and they've doubled the price of the book, it would still be a solid value and you should purchase it immediately.  Simply put the book is awesome.

Granted a large part of the book is taken up with reviews of hotels, but that doesn't detract from it's worth.

A similarly large section is given over to rating all of the restaurants in Disney World and since the book isn't written or created by anyone actually associated with DW, they can and do tell you when things stink and when you should avoid them. Using it to pick the places we ate lunch and dinner more than covered the cost of the book.

It also reviews all of the rides and shows and tells you which ones are awesome, which ones aren't and which ones haven't been updated since the 80's.

But perhaps the best part of the book is that it tells you what rides to ride in what order.


Wait you say, the book tells me to go ride a certain ride first and then what to do next?

Exactly.  And while that sounds like you are having your vacation dictated to you, what it really means is that you will get to ride more rides and see more shows.

For instance, are you interested in riding the Toy Story Arcade ride in Hollywood Studios?  If you follow the book (as we did) you end up waiting about five minutes.  When we went back later the wait was 110 minutes. [3]

Evidently, the writers of the book went to the park and watched and rode everything at all times of the day.  They watched traffic patterns [4] and saw when certain rides were busy and when they weren't. And then they put together several different agendas designed to maximize your time riding and watching and to minimize your time standing in line.

We spent six days in the four different parks at DW and the longest we waited (with one exception) was probably 10 minutes. Okay, let me hedge my bets and say 15 minutes, tops.

The book is very clear that to maximize things you need to follow their order religiously and that to deviate means you risk losing your ability to zip from ride to ride and instead get to stand in a queue like a sheep.

And if there are things you want to ride that it doesn't have listed or there are things listed that you don't want to ride, it tells you how to replace and deviate without hosing yourself.  Also there are several different agendas to choose from. [5]

The book claims that it reduces average wait time per day by about four hours.  I would have to say that it made it even less for us.  On most days we finished everything on the list with hours of time to spare.

Which is why we ended up standing in line for a longer time, once.  We had ridden everything and seen everything that we wanted to see at Epcot and it had started raining.  So to waste time until our dinner reservation,[6] we waited 20 minutes to ride the ride at the Mexican pavilion.

You could also spend a few more bucks to get more info and updated lists and wait times on their website, but we forgot to do that so I can't tell you how good that was.  But I can say that we didn't need it.  The book was plenty good.

The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2013: A+

[1] - They'll be an entire post about eating at Disney World soon.
[2] - We bought it at Barnes and Nobles, it's actually $5 cheaper on Amazon.
[3] - No, that's not a typo.  The wait was nearly two hours.  What's more astonishing is how many people were willing to wait that long.
[4] - The traffic patterns of people.
[5] - Spending 1 or 2 days in a park and with or without small children.
[6] - That's right we were wasting time while at a Disney theme park because we had nothing else to do, in June.

Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness:  While I have been told on more than one occasion that my hair is perfect[1], it may come as a surprise to some of you that as a whole, I am not. [2]

If it turns out that life is in any way like a giant RPG, way back at character creation I clearly took a few disads, to gain more awesome abilities and super powers. [3]  One of those was clearly motion sickness.

If you like to think of life in more genetic terms, I have my mother to thank for this. [4]  As she and all of my siblings get it as well.

For those of you who don't really know what it is, let me explain.

Whenever motion sickness occurs, I basically feel nauseated in the extreme.  If I don't stop whatever it is that is causing it, I eventually break out in the cold sweats, the blood rushes from my head and I feel like I really, really, really, really, really want to lose my lunch. [5]  Fortunately or possibly unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I never actually do blow chunks. [6]

So you ask, what causes this motion sickness?  Well let me tell you.

Basically it is a problem with your inner ear and your eyes communicating with your brain.  Way down deep in your ear there is a little chamber partly full of liquid.  Your brain uses this chamber [7] to keep track of whether you are right side up, upside down, on your side or whatever.  When you are walking around, gravity keeps the liquid on the bottom of the chamber and your inner ear reports back that you are right side up.

Should you go upside down, the fluid will now be on the side of the chamber that used to be the top[8] and your inner ear will report to the brain that you are upside down.  If you should wreck your car and do a barrel roll, the liquid will slosh all over the place and your inner ear will tell your brain that things aren't going so well.

The problems start when your brain starts comparing that data to the data from your eyes.  When your inner ear says, "Brain we are upside down." and your eyes are reporting back data that confirms that, there is no problem.  But when those two sets of data don't coincide, there can be trouble.

I say "can be trouble" because for many people there isn't.  The brain sifts through the data figures out why they aren't both reporting the same thing and moves on.  But for some people, the incongruity of this data means motion sickness.  It goes a bit like this:

Eyes: Brain, we appear to be flying upside down in a jet plane.
Inner Ear: Hate to argue with the eyes, but that's simply not true, we are in fact right side up.
Brain: Okay you two, calm down.  We are watching a movie about Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot.  There's no problem here.  Except perhaps the acting, plot, etc.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!
Everyone else: What?  NO!!!!
Stomach: Increasing sweat production, 500%!

As that little scenario clearly shows, for some it can be something as minor as a movie.  Fortunately for me, it takes more than just a standard movie.

Also, it can work in other ways.  For instance if it is pitch black, you can get something like this:

Eyes: Brain, nothing is going on.
Inner Ear: What are you blind!  Everything is flipping around like crazy.  Are we trapped in the dryer again!"
Brain: We're on a roller coaster in the dark.  Calm down everyone.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!!!!

Finally, it can be set off if your eyes and inner ear are reacting too much to unanticipated changes.  Like when you are a passenger in a vehicle and you can't get a good look at the road to see how the car is going to move in the future.  And not just big turns and curves, the minor wheel adjustments the driver does subconsciously are actually worse.

Eyes: On the one hand, based up the completely stationary headrest in front of me, I posit we are not moving.  However, the trees moving by at a rapid pace out the window seem to indicate fast movement.
Inner Ear: I got some slight variations in the chamber liquid [9], so nothing to indicate great speed, but I also don't think we're sitting still.
Brain: We're in the back seat of a car.  There's no problem.
Inner Ear: We've got some definite tilt of the fluid plain.  We seem to be banking left.
Eyes: Nope, headrest is still not moving.  Though those trees are really going.
Brain: The road is a little curvy that's all.
Stomach: LET'S THROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!

For the most part, it really isn't that much of a problem.  I just make sure that I'm the driver whenever I can.  And if I can't I sit where I can see the whole road. [10]  I avoid certain rides at theme parks and I just suck it up and hope for the best if I have to go on a plane. [11]

Because I know you're dying to know, here's a list of some of the things that can make me regret my current life choices and a relative rating of how bad the motion sickness will be on a scale of 0-10: [12]

- Riding in the front passenger seat: 0-4 (depending on the driver)
- Riding in the back passenger seats: 3-8 (depending on the driver)
- First person shooter video games that are realistic [13]: 2-8 (depending on how recently I've eaten and how long I play)
- First person shooter video games that are not realistic at all [14]: 0-3 (depending on how recently I've eaten and how long I play)
- Theme park rides that spin around a lot [15]: 5-10
- Theme park rides that are in the dark: 4-8
- Theme park rides that are in those simulator pods that move the entire pod around to match the movie/ride [16]: 8-10
- Airplane rides: 3-10 (depending on length of ride, turbulence, and other factors)
- Boat rides: 0 (boats don't bother me, go figure).
- Circle Vision 360 movies: 8-9
- 3-D movies: 1-4 (depends on how much movement is going on and how realistic the movie is)
- 3-D, IMAX movies: 2-5
- Virtual Reality anything: 1-10 (again depending on how realistic but usually more on the 10 side of the scale.)
- Anything in the world if I am overly hot and/or hungry: +5 to scale
- Riding backwards: +3 to scale
- Riding in the passenger seat to the hospital with a major inner ear infection while my wife is driving: 27,000 [17]

To sum up, while it is an annoying problem, if I avoid certain situations it's not a big deal. [18] Of course, if you say, take a week long vacation to Disney World, those usually unavoidable things, suddenly become much less unavoidable.  But hey, it's a small price to pay for a perfectly coiffed do.

Motion Sickness: D+

[1] - I'm actually serious.  People have told me that.  Go figure.
[2] - Perfect that is.
[3] - Like wicked smarts, dashing good looks and perfect hair.
[4] - Thanks mom!
[5] - That means throw up.
[6] - I say possibly unfortunately because I often feel like I would probably feel a lot better if I did.
[7] - I'm sure it has a technical name and I'm not even 100% sure it's a chamber, but I'm too lazy to look it up.
[8] - But is now the bottom, because you're upside down.
[9] - I really should have looked up what that stuff was called.
[10] - Which basically means I end up hogging the front seat.  Sorry 'bout that.
[11] - There are anti-motion sickness medicines, but for me they make me feel worse than the motion sickness, but in a completely different way.
[12] - 1 being minor queasiness and 10 being a state akin to, "I wish I was dead".
[13] - Skyrim, Call of Duty, etc
[14] - Original Duke Nukem and the like
[15] - Mo-mo the monster, drunken barrels, Mad Hatter's Tea Cups
[16] - Body wars, Back to the Future Ride and I'm led to believe the Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios is that way too, but I can't confirm that.
[17] - Including actual puking!
[18] - Just realize that if you invite my family over, we're all coming in separate cars.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What's New Scooby-Doo? (Seasons 1-3)

What's New Scooby-Doo: Complete Seasons 1-3: As previously stated, we here at Mr. B-Grades love us some Scooby-Doo.  Which is why I was pretty excited to get all three seasons of What's New Scooby-Doo [WNSD] for my birthday. [1]

WNSD season 1 came out in 2002, which makes it a little over thirty years older than the original.  Despite the passing time, the gang looks essentially the same.  If you are a Scooby purist and you can get past a few minor changes, these three DVD's will serve you well.

One of the biggest changes is that Daphne and Velma don't sound the same [2]  Which initially I was disappointed about, but quickly got over.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, 'c'mon, it was thirty years ago.  You really think they could get the same people?"

While I didn't actually think that, that is what you partially get, because both Fred and Shaggy are played by the same actors who did their voices for the original series. [3]  But really I just wanted voices that sounded reasonably close.  And for the two girls, especially Velma, I don't think they even tried.  But again, you quickly didn't notice the change.

The plots are slightly better. [4]  They do all make at least some logical sense, which can't necessarily be said for some of the originals. They aren't necessarily possible or really that believable, but they at least make sense.  And all of the characters have at least a little more depth to them. [5]

Perhaps the biggest change is that Daphne isn't completely useless.  She's still fashion/beauty conscious, but she can also pick any lock with the random contents of her purse and she's much more athletic.

Best of all, the show has many honest to goodness laugh out loud moments.  Many of the other characters names are references to other movies/books/shows or are bad puns. [6]  There are a few recurring gags, some of which are possible because the characters have more depth.  And lots of fairly famous guest actors.  Enough that you end every episode by pausing on the voice credits to see just whose voice that really was.

In truth, the thing about the show that made me the saddest is that there was only 3 seasons.

What's New Scooby-Doo? (Seasons 1-3): A-

[1] - Or possibly Christmas.  I'm bad at remembering things like that.
[2] - As they did before, not the same as each other.
[3] - Fred Welker and Casey Kasem, respectively
[4] - I said 'slightly'.
[5] - Fred's a big Elvis fan.  Daphne's a big surfer.  Velma loves Hockey.  Shaggy is a putt-putt champion.
[6] - Like, Owen DeCastle.  He's the owner of a spooky castle.  Or Sonny Les Martines.  "Ding Dong Ding".

Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga:  It's unlikely, barring your being a Luddite, that you don't already know what Candy Crush Saga is.  Which is not to say that you necessarily have played it, but at the very least you've been spammed by your friends and acquaintances who have been sucked in.

Hi, I'm Mr. B-Grades and I played Candy Crush. [1]

But it's important to notice the tense in the that previous sentence. [2]

I actually still like the game, but the owners/creators of it have beaten whatever joy there was to be had out of me.

Just in case, you actually are a Luddite [3] or by some other way have managed to avoid the game, here's a brief description.  Any time there are three or more identical pieces of candy on the game board they are removed (or crushed).  And new candy falls in from the top of the screen  You attempt to facilitate that removal by swapping pieces that are next to each.  Along the way the different layouts on each level and other obstacles make successive levels harder and more challenging.

Currently there are something like sixteen magillion levels [4]

The problem with the game is directly related to why the game exists.  And as any first year Econ student can tell you, all businesses exist for one reason and one reason only.

To make money.

And Candy Crush is made by a business [5] and thus is ultimately there to make them money. [6]

How do they make money?  By getting you to spend your real life dollars for their in-game bonuses.

Run out of lives?  Spend a buck and get your lives refilled.  Want to have the ability to create special candies that explode and in other ways assist your efforts?  Cash can do that for you too.

But wait, you say.  Isn't candy crush free to play?  Sure, but the people over there at King Games also want your money, so they have to balance making the game free and fun with making it hard so you want to spend money for extra perks.  If they make it too easy to play and win, nobody will spring for the bonuses.  If they make it too hard, you won't ever get hooked.

Which brings us to level 165.

Technically, there are several levels akin to 165 you will encounter first, but 165 was the straw that broke this camel's back.

The different layouts and obstacles do require you to use strategy to get past a level and on every level there is some amount of luck, but with good skill and a mere modicum of luck you can get past most levels in just a few tries.  But for some reason every so often you run into a level where it is essentially 100% luck.  Your skill doesn't matter.  Unless the game gods arbitrarily decide to give you the right pattern of falling candies, you are not going to win.

I suffered through several of these.  Some of which took me a few days to win. [7]  Then came 165.  A board in which your decisions mean little.  Where unless the game decides to make every other candy a blue one, you aren't going to win.

King games is hoping this will get you to shell out for bonuses to get past the level.

King games is wrong.

Candy Crush: C+  (Good concepts.  Fun levels.  Decent strategy.  All of which is ruined by a few rotten apples. [8])

[1] - The first step towards getting better is admitting you have a problem.
[2] - In case grammar isn't your forte, it was past tense, meaning done in the past, but not necessarily now.
[3] - Of course if you are a Luddite how/why are you reading this now?
[4] - All numbers are approximate.
[5] - King Games
[6] - For the record, I'm not a business and as such get no remuneration for these efforts.  Not that I would turn such things down.
[7] - Or more accurately to be given the win.
[8] - Whether those apples are the levels, the people who run the game, or something else, I'll let you decide.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Epic, First Movie

Epic, First Movie: So I went and saw Epic.  It was pretty good.  Good animation.  Good action.  Several funny bits.   My favorite scene was with the fruit fly.  Looks to me like it is setting itself up for an Epic 2. [1]

But enough about the movie.

More importantly, the Pook and I took the Bear along with us.  It was his first movie theater experience.

A few weeks ago after seeing a commercial for the movie on TV, he told the Pook that he really wanted to see it.  More than likely it was a typically fleeting passing fancy of a four year old, but the Pook took it to heart, so we made it happen.

When he found out we were going, the Bear was stoked.  When he found out he had to wait until after lunch, he immediately asked if we could eat lunch right then. [2]

Since it was a semi-big deal, we decided to splurge and buy popcorn and a Coke as well. [3]

In truth, I thought we would probably get about forty minutes in and then antsy pants would get antsy and we'd have to leave.  There were one or two times in which he stood up to look around the theater and take it all in, but he sat through the whole thing no problem. [4]

The Bear's take on the movie was: "The slug was my favorite part . . . and everything else, that was my favorite part too."

The Bear's take on the entire theater experience was: "The popcorn was my favorite part . . . and everything else, that was my favorite part too.  Why can't we get more popcorn?"

As you can see everything went well and a good time was had by all.  Upon leaving the theater, the Bear asked when we could go to another movie.  I'm sure that will happen soon. [5]

If you are friends with me on Facebook, look for some pics of the Bear at the theater, to be posted soon. [6]

Epic: B+
First Movie for the Bear: A

[1] - The Pook says it will probably have the Leaf Dude get large for some reason.
[2] - It was around 10:00 a.m.
[3] - The adults in the party near fainted at the total bill.  The youth in the group started demanding more popcorn about a third of the way through the movie.
[4] - Except for the evidently appalling lack of popcorn that is.
[5] - Just as soon as I can secure a small line of credit.
[6] - If you are reading this several weeks or longer in the future, you missed them.  They were epic.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Charlie's Angels (1&2)

Charlie's Angels (1&2): My memories of Charlie's Angels the TV show are pretty sparse. [1]  In fact, my only specific memory of the show [2] is an episode in which someone is trying to kill at least one of the angels and some bad guys replace the shower head in her apartment with a flame thrower.  Fortunately for whichever angel it was, she was the type of person who leans in and turns on the shower before getting in. [3]  Thus she avoids the trap.

That's it.  That's the only actual memory of any plot line or scene from the show.

So, in 2000 when the first movie came out, I can't say I was overly excited.  I wasn't antagonistic or anything, but I felt no burning desire to rush to the theater either.

When I did finally end up seeing it [4] I was pleasantly surprised on all fronts.  The movie struck all of the right nostalgia chords with me[5] and I was particularly pleased that they got John Forsythe to continue as the voice of Charlie.  Casting Bill Murray as Bosley could have been a disaster, but wasn't. [6] There were good stunts, well choreographed fights and an ample amount of explosions.  You got Crispin Glover in a role that let him be as creepy as he wants [7].  Plenty of cameos.  And best of all the plot was not too terrible.

It was good enough that when the sequel came out, I was actually excited to see it.  And I have watched it on DVD several times since then.

Which isn't to say that it doesn't have its problems.  Instead, it's just that any problems are minor enough that they are easily forgiven and quickly forgotten.

Charlie's Angels 2, is actually called Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.  It has nearly the same cast (Diaz, Barrymore and Liu all return as the angels) with one big exception.  This time the role of Bosley is played by Bernie Mac.  [Insert sound of screeching tires here.]

That's right, Bernie Mac.[8]

To give the writers some credit, they don't actually expect you to believe it's the same guy.  Instead you are supposed to believe that they are brothers. [9]

Mac does a fine enough job, but you can't ever quite get past the fact that he's not Bill Murray. [10]

As for the movie, my guess is that when they decided to make a sequel they sat down and said, "We want it to be just like the first one, but with more of everything."

What they got was too much of everything.

The movie somehow loses the nostalgia feel completely.  John Forsythe is still there playing a small plastic box, but everything somehow seems less Charlie's Angels than before. [11]  The stunts are way too over the top and at times just downright stupid.  The fights are not nearly so well choreographed and at times you can practically see the wires. [12] And worst of all the plot is just stupid.

I mean really really stupid. [13]

Which really makes it no surprise that they never made a third one.

Charlie's Angels (2000): B
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003): D- 

[1] - Which is another way of saying that I didn't watch it much.
[2] - As opposed to vague impressions of the three main women being good looking, Bosley being kind of a dork, Charlie essentially being a box on a desk and of the quick sound they used for a scene change.
[3] - Which I pretty much assume is most everyone.  (Except for people who think freezing their bits off waiting for the water to warm up is a great way to start a shower.)
[4] - Which was actually in the theater, but I don't remember how or why I went to see it (as opposed to seeing something else).
[5] - Which given my lack of specific memories was impressive.
[6] - Don't get me wrong, I like Bill Murray.  But putting him in as Bosley meant Bosley becoming more front and center and let's face it, nobody was at the theater looking to see Bill.
[7] - And boy can that fellow get weird.  Anyone else remember that time on Letterman? "And I can kick."
[8] - I suppose the fact that Bill Murray evidently turned down the opportunity to be in the sequel should have been a red flag.
[9] - I said, 'some credit', not 'a lot of credit'.
[10] - Especially since they keep bringing it up.
[11] - Which is strange because they have a cameo by Jaclyn Smith, one of the original Charlie's Angels
[12] - Okay you can't actually 'see' the wires, but the laws of physics make their presence undeniable.
[13] - Seriously bad stupid.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Oblivion: Having missed this film in the regular theater, the Pook and I just watched it at the cheap theater. [1]  It's one of those artsy sci-fi movies in the same way as Solaris [2].

With out spoiling anything, Tom Cruise and his co-worker/girl friend are the last two people on earth.  They are doing some last minute 'care-taking' before getting sent off world to go Titan to rejoin the rest of humanity.  Only, it turns out that nearly everything that precedes this sentence in this paragraph is a lie.  Seriously, there isn't anything there that turns out to be true. [3]

Among those falsehoods, is the fact that there are other humans on the planet, one of which is Morgan Freeman.  And if he's in a movie it has to at least be decent.  Right?

[One quick check of later.]

Okay, so he was in the giant stinker "Dreamcatchers", but hey nobody's perfect.

Anyway, back to Oblivion.

The pacing of the movie is a little slow. [4] And a lot of the revealed surprises, aren't that surprising. And the whole movie has a little bit of a flavor of every other similar sci-fi movie you've ever seen.  Which doesn't lend itself to standing out as a great movie.  But in the end, despite all of that and one part of the ending that is a part of movie endings that generally makes me not like those types of movies, I still rather enjoyed the whole thing. [5]

Oblivion: B

[1] - Not sure why that fact is relevant or noteworthy, but there you go.
[2] - The remake w/ Clooney, not the original.
[3] - Including the first sentence.  Sorry about that.
[4] - Like Solaris.
[5] - fwiw, the Pook said she'd rather have watched it at home where she could have done something
else at the same time.