Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Effinjay on Tonight Live!

Last Sunday, Frogg and I were once again asked to be part of Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe. We christened the stage in their new studio, and got an interview too! It was a ton of fun, just like last time. They are such a professional group, and put together an amazing show.

Check out the broadcast here:

We're the musical guest directly after the first guest. After we play a song, we sit with Paisley and have a chat.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (part 2)

Finally have enough time to finish this, and I don't want to forget it all! So here we go!

We'll pick up where I left off: trying to get to sleep before the start of the cruise. It was pretty tricky, really, because being away for a week on a ship is fairly exciting!

Sunday morning we woke up and finished packing, charging phones, cameras and laptops, and checked our email one last time. Then, it was off to the port in San Pedro, to get checked into the ship. There are a ton of people trying to board, so it can be a hectic experience! Plus, we were a party of seven (myself, Hunter, his father, his mother, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his neice).

Anyway, we finally got through all the signatures and authorizations, and made it on the ship! First thing we did was to go look for our room, but it wasn't quite open yet. So, we hung out on the deck and went up for a little snack at the buffet above. We also opted into the "soda package", which was a lump sum for unlimited soft drinks on the cruise (normally around $4 each, I heard). We didn't do a whole lot of exploring yet, since I was still carrying my satchel, and Hunter his laptop, and we didn't want to bump them around into anything. The room finally opened, and we got our first look! Here's a little video of the room, that I took a bit later as we left port.

After dropping off the gear, we took a nice tour of the ship. You can find out some of the ship details here, and here as well! At 4:30PM, we had our muster drill. While we were out there waiting, we got a nice view of the Disney Magic, a ship on the Disney cruiseline. It left port earlier than we did, and we got to hear the ship's horn, which played "When You Wish Upon A Star". How cool! As you can see below, the back of the ship even had a tiny suspended Goofy painting on the name. For the whole cruise, we either followed the Magic or they followed us.

Dinner on the cruise was at the same table every night, for us, but since it was a table for nine we then met our other two dinner companions, a couple of nice older ladies from the California wine country. The meals were exceptional. The general routine went like this. You'd sit down, and be handed an appetizer menu and an entree menu. You could pick any number of things from either menu. After a bit, a server would come around with a bread tray, and you would pick any sort of bread you wanted from it. Then, whatever drink you ordered the first night would typically be brought to you automatically the rest of the nights (I had a Sprite). Then, you'd get your various appetizers and eat them, followed by the entrees you picked. After the table was cleared, out would come the dessert menu, and you'd get your pick of whatever you wanted from that. All in all, a wonderful dining experience. I took some pictures of the menus, from the last night of the cruise. Here's the appetizer, entree, and dessert menus for the last evening on the ship.

Monday and Tuesday were days "at sea", so we couldn't go ashore, and spent the time wandering around the ship, eating lunch, playing cards, and watching Deep Space 9 on the little DVD player we brought along and hooked up to the TV in the room. We ended up watching a lot of DS9, before bed, and any time we just needed to relax! Brock (a small snow tiger we bought a while ago on a trip to Washington state, and our new found Cabo (see previous entry) leopard, really enjoyed the view, as seen below!

We were quite ready to get off the ship come Wednesday morning, and since our first stop, Cabo San Lucas, couldn't accomodate large ships at its port, we took tenders to the dock. The weather was pretty warm, so I was slathering on sunscreen like crazy. After arriving at the dock, I think we got asked for a taxi, windsurfing, para sailing, or jewelry every 15 seconds. I quickly learned to say "No, thank you". We did eventually take a taxi to the Cabo coastline, which looks pretty much just like this. First thing we did after jumping off the water taxi (which beached right on the sand in front of a cafe) was to order a couple of margaritas. After a bit more sunscreen application, we continued walking down the beach, eventually stopping at a place for lunch, right on the sand. Here's a short video I took while we were waiting for the food. We each had two beers there, because Hunter asked for "dos Dos Equis" meaning two, and joked "Hmm, quattro equis!" I didn't mind a bit, as it went really went well with the nachos I had. After lunch, we walked back a bit, and stopped at a nice spot to go swimming.

It was at this point we both got nasty sunburns, but didn't realize it yet... ;) We both kept our shirts on for swimming, but the sunscreen vanished from our legs and feet due to the water. Uh oh! However, since we didn't know it yet, we walked back to where we got our first water taxi, and each had a pina colada at the bar we had the margaritas at. Very tasty, and just what I wanted to cool down. We got another water taxi, and made it back to the ship on another tender. Here's a video of us passing a tender headed to Cabo, and here's another video of us rounding the ship in our own tender before docking.

We got back on the ship, and headed to the adults only pool to cool off a bit more and shower off the salt. The ship had two pools... One outdoor pool that was all ages, and an indoor one, in a solarium, for adults. Anyway, we went to take a nap after the busy morning, and woke up to find ourselves very sunburnt. I took a picture of my leg, but I won't show it here, as it's basically just a red lobster leg :D The sunburn itself wasn't bad, as long as you weren't wearing shoes or socks, and were lying down. But, stand up, and the blood would pool into your foot, causing sharp pains that made the two of us walk around like old men :) We limped to dinner that night, but ended up not doing much else.

The next morning, we found ourselves in Mazatlan. We could barely move, so we skipped getting off the ship. I did take a few pictures off the railing though:

A mariachi band was playing right below our window, taunting us for not being able to walk:

That's okay though, we had a great day actually. Mainly we sat around the room watching DS9 and ordered room service for lunch (bacon cheeseburgers, hehe). Ended up being a great day overall. That night we did make it to dinner, but that was about it!

The next day we ended up at our last port, Puerto Vallarta. By then we were feeling good enough to walk around, despite the terrible humidity and high temperatures you get at 20 degrees above the equator (Eugene being at 44 degrees). We didn't get too far, because of the weather, but made it to the small flea market next to the port. There, I got all my souveniers in one fell swoop, and we hurried back to the relative coolness of the ship, although I did take some video of a parrot I saw. Which I would link to, but unfortunately YouTube thinks it takes more than a half hour to put up a 30 second video. Oh well, take a look at my YouTube videos here, if you want to try and spot it.

After that, it was one more full day at sea, just enough time to lose more money at the casino :D The ships typically enjoy days at sea, as the casino is not allowed to be open when the ship is in a port. I had a good time playing video poker and keno, and Hunter had fun at the craps and blackjack tables. I had fun *watching* Hunter at the tables, as I'm a little nervous about playing real time with people who would rather I play than think about my next choice. We headed back to LA at a pretty good clip, as you can see from this video that I took of the water.

Finally, the cruise was over, and we ended up back in LA. We made it through customs (held on stage in the auditorium) and off the ship with pretty much no trouble. We had lunch with a good old friend of Hunter's in LA, and got to the airport just fine.

Well, that's when the trouble started. We had about an hour to wait for the flight to San Francisco, then another flight from there to Eugene, arriving approximately 7:30PM, but things didn't go that way. First, the flight from Burbank was delayed about 30 minutes, then just outright canceled. That meant we would miss our connecting flight in San Francisco, and would instead have to wait for 5 hours in SFO for a flight that would get us home at roughly midnight. At least United gave us meal vouchers of $15 each (which covered half the meal we ended up getting). Still, waiting there until 10:45PM was quite a trial, and reminded me once again how miserable sitting around SFO is (this had happened to me once before, due to a missed flight).

That's it from me! Hope you enjoyed reading about my vacation :) The next trip I have planned is with Hunter and Rosa, over to the Oregon coast for a night's stay in a rented house, with stops up and down the coast. Should be fun, and no airline delays! :D

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (part 1)

I always wanted to start a blog post like that, hehe... This could get long, so I'm only posting part now!

On Friday, May 23rd, Hunter and I left Eugene bound for Burbank, CA. We had a layover in San Francisco, but for once in my life, a flight including SFO actually left and arrived on time at my destination. WOW! I didn't think it was possible, but at approximately 7PM we arrived in Burbank, and Hunter's folks picked us up. We then went to eat at the Original Panda (Panda Inn), a place I've been wanting to try for quite a while, being a big fan of the Panda Express chain. It was really good, I have to admit. I even got the orange chicken, like I normally do at the Express! Very tasty!

We spent the night at Hunter's folks' house in Pasadena, and got up early Saturday morning to get ready for our excursion to Disneyland. The cruise didn't leave until Sunday afternoon, so we figured it would be the perfect time to fit in a Disneyland trip, as Anaheim is really close to Pasadena.

Well, I hadn't been to Disneyland since I was around 7 years old, in 1978, so I had no idea what to expect. First of all, it seems that in the early 80s they stopped using tickets, and now the admission fee covers all the rides. Also, fairly recently they initiated a "fast pass" system, where you can get a ticket (using your admission ticket) that allows you to return to the ride during a window of time for a more express line, getting you into the ride much faster. However, you can only have one fast pass at a time, and once a certain window of time is "sold out", you have to pick a later time.

First thing we did was grab a fast pass for the Indiana Jones ride, and then headed over to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It's something of a tradition for Hunter to ride that one first, and I had no objections! I remembered the ride slightly from my time there as a kid, but I was still blown away by the attention to detail in the full-size diorama-ish scenes created from animatronics and lighting. The whole thing is huge, once you get inside, and takes a while to get through... By the end of it, you have a good feeling of being piratey, for sure. I have never seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (I know, shame shame), but I did spot recent upgrades to the ride, like Jack Sparrow, to make it more "current", I suppose.

The Indiana Jones ride was extremely thrilling, and really bounced you around inside the ride car, zooming one way and bumping up and down the other. I really enjoyed it, but I could see how some people might end up feeling a little bruised. :D I was a bit shaken up and white-knuckled, but felt pretty good after it, hehe... As some of you may know, I'm not really a roller-coaster person, as I get motion sick fairly easily, and gate being turned upside down on a ride with a passion.

Next up, we went to Space Mountain. That may have been a mistake on my part, as I hadn't let Hunter know the extent of my motion sickness. No, I didn't actually throw up, but I did break out into a drenched sweat by the end of the ride, and had to sit it out for about 20 minutes before we could get moving again. The ride started up fine, and was pretty trippy and spacey with all the swirling lights and such in the dark. Then the corkscrew turns started up, and whipped us back and forth. If it had been in daylight, and I could have anticipated the turns, I would have done okay, I think. But with all the mesmerizing lights and pulsating stuff, I got pretty ill pretty fast. :D Still, I'm glad I went on it, as now I can say I have!

After that, we left the park for a bit, and went next door to Downtown Disney for lunch. We got into the Rainforest Cafe, and had food. It was mostly decent food, but we happened to be seated next to the animatronic elephants, which would trumpet loudly every 8 minutes or so, causing me to almost lose my fork or perform a spit-take. All the little ones in the restaurant thought it was fantastic, but I grew tired of it after the second trumpeting and just wished we could talk and eat in peace. :D The best part of lunch though was the gift shop, where we picked up a small plushie leopard that we eventually named "Cabo" in honor of the first port we reached later on the cruise. After lunch we wnet and saw the new Indiana Jones movie (which had just opened a few days ago) at the movie theater there. It was really great to get to see it so soon after the ride, and a nice rest for the feets!

We took the monorail (how's that spelled?) back to Disneyland, and wandered around a little while. It's really quite a popular place... Very crowded now that is was after lunch on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. Due to the crowds, we went and got a fast pass for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, another roller-coaster (yes, I know), and boarded the Mark Twain riverboat for a little relaxation. The Riverboat was a little dated, but still a fun experience. The Thunder Mountain was very thrilling, and since it was mostly out in the light, I enjoyed it a lot more. Still a bit shaken up, but not sick hardly at all.

Well, a little more wandering around, resting, and watching part of the parade, and we were on our way back to Hunter's folks' house. We stopped at a great German restaurant first, and then were home to finish up packing for the early start on Sunday for the cruise.

More to come on that later!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back from the cruise!

I'm back! Don't have much time to write at the moment, as it's my first day back and my first day back at work! But I'll upload a few pictures here for you all :)

Our ship, the Vision of the Seas!

Me, on the beach at Cabo San Lucas

Mazatlan, as seen from the ship!

Okay, more details coming later on. It's good to be back!