Thursday, May 3, 2012

Taste the Future

Has anyone seen one of these new Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountains yet?

Meaghan and I ate at the Noodles in Plymouth tonight and got to use one for the first time ever. It looks like they've been slowly spreading across the country for the last year or two, so maybe I'm completely out of the loop and they've just taken forever to make it all the way to the Great White North. If you can't tell from the picture and didn't bother to click the link, the big deal is that this is a digital soda fountain with touch-screen selection that can mix and match 100+ flavors of soda. So if you've been dying to find easy access to some Vanilla Coke or Coke with Raspberry (really?), look no further.

We didn't notice the machine was there until after we ordered, so all I can tell you so far is that it dispenses water like a pro.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Everything Ends

For those not tracking the stretch run of the MLB season, it may not be news to you that the Detroit Tigers lost last night. However, it is if you consider the fact that their improbable win on Wednesday over Chicago, which included two pinch-hit 9th inning home runs to send the game into extra innings, raised their winning streak to 12 games.

I'm not going to predict a World Series win or even an appearance, as the baseball playoffs are an enormous crap shoot, but it's worth noting that every other Tigers team that won >10 consecutive games during a season made it to the Series. I'm looking forward to seeing what our AL Central champions can do this year.


On a completely different note, since January I've been reading the 27 book Time-Life series on the Civil War that I inherited from my grandpa. I finished the last one this morning, detailing the failed attempt at Radical Reconstruction of the South from 1865-1877.

I've made a few half-hearted attempts in the past to read this series, but have never made it past the sixth book before. I've enjoyed it each time I've tried in the past, but failed because of the huge time commitment required. Now I'm pleased to say that I've learned everything there is to learn about the Civil War. Well, at least I've learned a lot about it.

It's already paid dividends at quiz bowl (first practice was yesterday) because I can laugh mercilessly when those puny high schoolers don't know who the Confederate general at Shiloh (and Fort Sumter) was. It's Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, of course.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Been There, Done That, Ate the Turkey Leg

The Warrior Dash turned out to be a ton of fun. Not only did we get some good exercise rambling up and down the ski slopes at Afton Alps, jumping over cars, climbing cargo nets, and ducking under barbed wire, but we did a bunch of other stuff I never thought I'd do. Among them:

- blasted clean by a fire hose
- ate a turkey leg at 9:30 in the morning -- my dad would be proud, there was absolutely no meat left on that bone when I was done with it
- queued up for beer at 10:00 in the morning -- it was free, and it was bad

If it comes back to Minnesota next year, I'd love to get a big group together to go with us. You don't have to be in fantastic shape, and can even walk it if you want to. The absolute worst part was right at the beginning because the course went straight up one of the steep ski slopes at the resort. We went at Meaghan's pace, which was less than strenuous, and finished in 50+ minutes. Even so, we didn't feel particularly out of place and could complete all of the obstacles with relative ease.

Because of the messy nature of many of the obstacles, we didn't bring a camera along, but there were professionals there to immortalize the occasion. Apologies for the watermarking, I'd have to pay money to get rid of that.

No, we're not drenched in sweat there. One of the first obstacles was to run through a couple of snow machines that were on at full blast. Since it's the summer, this amounted to being blasted with a metric ton of water.

Nearing the finish line, after going back down the ski slope on a giant Slip n' Slide, we had to hurdle a couple of flaming berms.

Emerging from the mud pit at the finish line, ready for the fire hose. Some of those clothes will never be clean again. Meaghan's still crawling through the mud somewhere behind me here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Breaking the Silence

It's been a busy couple of weeks since returning from Europe.

I had fully intended on using that first weekend to load this place with tales from the journey, but instead we turned around almost immediately to get on a plane to Florida for Meaghan's G'Pa's funeral. Unbeknownst to us, he had suffered a stroke while we were gone and was placed into hospice. To our relative good fortune, he managed to hang on until the day after we returned so we were able to visit with the family at least a little as opposed to missing it completely. I only knew him for a small fraction of his 92 years, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a kinder soul.

We returned to Minnesota again to the news that one of Meaghan's students had committed suicide, so we attended our second funeral of the week that Saturday. Between that and trying to get acquainted with the current goings-on at work, it was a difficult week.

For this past week, I don't really have an excuse beyond working too much. We saw a couple of movies in the theater that I'll be writing about before too long, and as I write this we're in the midst of completing Disney movie #3. There are scads of bonus features and multiple commentaries on our copy of Fantasia, so it's taken us a long time to make it this far. Dumbo comes next for those of you tracking our progress.

None of that is the real reason that I'm making the effort to break my silence at such a late hour, though. My reason? Sunday morning, Meaghan and I become WARRIORS! Or at least, we're going to make the attempt. As a fan of "American Gladiators", "Ninja Warrior", etc. it'll be fun to try something that's even a tenth of what those contestants do. I'll let you know how it goes next week.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Moral of the Story

So what was the point of all this? Good entertainment aimed at kids does exist. I know that none of my regular readers have children that are the right age for any of this stuff, but someday they will. Since we now know it exists, I urge you to take an interest in what your kids are watching and listening to. Help them differentiate the bad from the good so they don't fill their heads up with the mindless drivel that so many Americans waste their time on these days. Future generations will thank you for it.


Epilogue: I just had to know if my crap sensor was broken, so I went out to YouTube and watched a random episode of "The Suite Life on Deck". Yep, it still sucks.

Thank goodness.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deaf is the New Down

I'd tried Disney. When that failed, I moved on to campy werewolves. Another failure. There had to be a show targeted at tweens or teens that wasn't any good. After all, they're not supposed to be good. Looking over my list again, I decided to try a new ABC Family show, "Switched at Birth". I've seen a couple episodes of different ABC Family shows before, and absolutely none of it was good. Surely this would be an easy target. Just look at the name. Nothing with a premise that ridiculous (yes, I know it's happened in real life before) could possibly be any good.

I'm wrong yet again. Ostensibly, the show is about two teenage girls who discover that they were switched at birth. This raises the natural issues of identity and the importance of nature vs nurture. In and of itself, this could make for an interesting show, but the main thing this show really has going for it is that one of the two girls who were switched at birth is deaf.

Remember "Life Goes On"? It was that show from the early 90s that was essentially a regular family drama, except for the fact that one of the kids, Corky, had Down syndrome. It brought a whole new cultural awareness to the plight of the mentally retarded. "Switched at Birth" is absolutely going to do the same for Deaf culture. So many of the scenes, with good reason, focus on what it means to be deaf and how deaf people and the hearing interact, that it's obvious that this is what the show is really about.

The fact alone that it's doing something that's completely new to television (which is so rare in this day and age) would probably make it worth watching. Add the fact that it's decently written, well acted, and treats its subject matter with the utmost respect and there's absolutely no reason to not give it a try.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Howl at the Moon

Shaken by my unexpected enjoyment of "Sonny With a Chance", I decided that I needed to make sure I could still tell the difference between something that was good and something that was crap. I'll admit that I have the annoying ability to find the good in almost anything, but I can usually still tell when something is actually bad. Perusing my list of new summer shows, I settled on something I was sure would fit the bill, MTV's new remake of "Teen Wolf".

Everyone remembers the cheesetastic movie starring Michael J. Fox, right? Some high school kid becomes a werewolf and consequently becomes the best basketball player in the world all while wearing a ridiculous hairy wolf-man suit.

Well, this new show is not that.

In fact, much to my chagrin this new "Teen Wolf" is actually pretty good. For one, it's played completely straight. No camp, no cheese, and it employs a lot of tricks used in modern horror (tense scoring, dim lighting, and decent effects). For another thing, it's not another stupid show about vampires. Sure, it has a supernatural bent and is probably trying to cash in on the Twilight/"True Blood"/"Vampire Diaries" phenomenon, but it's refreshing to me that it's taking on a different fantastical creature for once.

Storywise, it probably employs a few too many cliches, but at least it's cliche done well. Our protagonist, Scott, is bitten by a werewolf while walking in the woods alone at night (yeah, I know), transforming him overnight into both a werewolf and his school's best lacrosse player. Props for showcasing a non-traditional sport, by the way. Unlike in the movie, though, this isn't common knowledge. It turns out werewolves are scary things that prowl moon-filled nights meting out death and destruction. Consequently, his best friend is the only guy in school to know his secret.

Add in a group of "hunters" whose mission in life is to stamp out all the werewolves in the world, a jealous team captain who used to be the best player on the team, and a new girl in town who takes a romantic interest in Scott (and oh yeah, happens to be the daughter of the lead hunter), and you have all the necessary ingredients for good teen drama. Seriously. If you're a fan of this kind of stuff at all, I recommend you give it a try. I think all of the episodes to date can still be viewed at the MTV website.