Archive for April, 2006

Global Night Commute at Trotters Park

Many people know about the more publicized genocide in Darfur and the past genocide in Rwanda thanks in part to the movie starring Don Cheadle. However there is yet another atrocious situation happening in another part of Africa, this time in Uganda.

In Uganda children as young as five years-old are being abducted and forced to fight in the Lords Resistance Army. They fight a war that has been going on for more than 20 years and it shows no sign of stopping unless forces from outside the country take action.

There’s been a growing movement to bring awareness to the situation in Uganda, including one here in Orlando. Today over 130 cities are participating in the Global Night Commute, an event coordinated by the filmmakers that made the documentary Invisible Children. Tonight thousands will commute and converge in urban areas nationwide in order to mimic the nightly commute the thousands of Ugandan children are forced to make each night. The event is meant to bring awareness to the crisis and hopefully raise funds to aid in the struggle to help the children of Uganda.

The Orlando Global Night Communte will take in Trotters Park at 2701 Lee Road at 7 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag, a flashlight, and whatever art supplies they will need to participate in the letter writing and art projects that are going to take place.

For more information go to the Invisible Children website.

Article on ‘Invisible Children’ Movement

w00t! WiFi for downtown is BACK! Kinda…

wireless%20map.jpgSoon, free wireless Internet access will be available in a 9-square-mile swath of downtown, stretching north-south from Gore Street to Princeton Street and east-west from Summerlin Avenue to Westmoreland Drive.

A few years ago, you could go to Lake Eola, and there was WiFi. But then the county decided the cost was too high and pulled the plug. We were told that it was costing $18,000 a month to keep WiFi up and running. Not sure who was buying that $300 hammer or $4000 toilet seat, but that’s what we were told. Nowadays, only coffee houses and sheik little luncheon spots offer this fabulous service. Not even our state-of-the art OIA offers such amenities.

In the months (nay, has it been a year already!?) since the downtown WiFi possibilities were yanked, the number of articles and revelations about cities all over the globe that are offering WiFi are becoming almost mundane now. Even St. Cloud started offering WiFi! St. Cloud has it… Orlando doesn’t. Hmmm… guess that got someone, somewhere thinking that we might be a tad behind the times.

No offense St. Cloud folks, but you guys aren’t Chicago or New York. Trends are a bit slower to get to your neck of the woods and we love you for it. But if you’ve beaten us to the WiFi punch, then we’ve got some anal retentive people in City Hall. Heck… maybe they’re just computer phobic over there…. like my parents. My mother is so afraid to do anything on the computer other than turn it on. Maybe our city leaders have got a case of baby-boomer-brain-lock when it comes to computers and it took St. Cloud getting WiFi to wake them up. Never underestimate the power of folks in overalls outdoing you to light a fire under your backside!

Whatever the case, I’ll take my 9 square miles thankyouverymuch.

There is one little fly in the ointment here though… it’s not broadband. It’s “twice the speed of dialup” and if you want anything faster, you’ll have to pay for it. Ah well…

You know, if you’re going to sell crazy, expensive real estate downtown with condos on every corner, I guess you can justify the expense of the WiFi. But is that what is really driving this trend back to the city Beautiful?? I mean are million dollar condos in Thornton Park going to benefit from this little venture… truly?!?

Look for me hanging out at the corner of Gore and Orange soon… I’ll be the one with the laptop and the portable chair… right next to the guy with the WILL WORK FOR FOOD sign.

Persecuting the Vultures

Did anybody catch the article in the Sentinel yet (“NASA Says Removing Roadkill Will Make Astronauts Safer”)? Seems that our gifted aeronautical minds at Kennedy Space Center have turned their attention to the little furry dead things at the side of the road. The last time they lauched the shuttle Discovery, a vulture rammed into the side of the fuel tank, though it didn’t sustain any damage. (The shuttle, I mean.) The theory is, picking up the carcasses will limit the amount of vultures in the skies and therefore keep the space shuttle safer.

And yes, they’re serious.

Just to review here: Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia were brought down by human error. These are the terrible disasters we are trying to prevent. Has anyone ever thought of answering all those nasty lingering questions about safety, budgets, and space shuttles that are aging in dog years? It just seems to me that much worse could happen to the astronauts until this stuff gets fixed. It’s like holding on for dear life at the top of a 50-story building, but all you can think about is how you accidentally left the toaster plugged in this morning.

I’m also confused about why we’re persecuting the vultures in this article. Aren’t there lots of things that could fly into the side of a fuel tank? To quote the Sentinel, “Roadkill is a common sight at the center, which is home to more than 500 species of wildlife, including bald eagles, sea turtles, alligators and manatees.”

FIVE HUNDRED SPECIES of wildlife. If even 5% of those species have wings, NASA is in big trouble. Why stop at roadkill? They may also want to consider a mandatory evacuation for all local fish and insects 24 hours before launch, because I’m thinking that pelicans, seagulls, egrets, and cranes could also wreak some havoc.

I’ve posted before about the Mission: Space ride and how its track record is less than stellar. Obviously I was misguided. Next time I go to EPCOT, I’m just going to check around to make sure there are no dead carcasses lying around the pavilion entrance. After all, if a vulture gets loose in there, there’s no telling what could happen…

Bad Boys.

Is there an escaped convict about or something? There are police with dogs and in squad cars all over Downtown, as well as some helicopters roving in the skies.

Keep your doors locked I suppose.

429, 535 & the Northerners

Just a quick note: If you are a west Orlando resident, I was recently informed that 429 (Western Expressway, Beltway, whatever we’re calling it these days) makes a cool connection. It will take you to the back of Disney property–the Coronado Springs/Blizzard Beach area–which would get rid of the need for a trip down the creepy, congested C.R. 535/Winter Garden-Vineland Rd. No word yet on which exchange will let you off there, but I’m told you’re able to see the back of the new Everest attraction. (In other words, if you don’t see a rollercoaster when you merge off of the highway, it’s time to turn around.)

While we’re on the subject of Winter Garden-Vineland…what’s going on with that road, anyway? It used to be a twisty old country road that was only used by the Disney workers in Winter Garden. Now it’s a four-lane health hazard with red lights at random intervals and a sea of half-built condos. I will never understand how a road with no malls, no restaurants, no convenience stores, and a single Publix can pack itself with cars like Los Angeles at rush hour. I don’t like to stereotype here, but I’m sick of getting run off the road by displaced Northerners in SUV’s the size of my apartment. Did the entire city of New York re-locate itself right behind Disney property or something? Because if I’m seeing this many Northerners down there, I’m trying to figure out who the heck is actually left up north.

I don’t know what I’ll do with myself if I can avoid the road completely. I guess I’ll spend my time doing something safer–cliff diving, maybe, or piloting fighter jets…

(And I don’t hate people from up north, so please don’t start “Julie Hates New Yorkers!” rumors. I love all new people who love Florida. Really. I’m sure the poor Northerners are none too pleased with me sometimes, so we’re even.)

Ben & Jerry Free Cone Day

benjerryconeday.jpgNothing tastes better than cold ice cream on a hot Orlando day…nothing, that is, unless it’s FREE ice cream. And we’re not talking just any ice cream.

On April 25, Ben & Jerry’s is holding their annual national “Free Cone Day” event and from noon to 8 p.m., simply show up and pick out your favorite flavor. This offer even includes the sugar-free and sorbet lines. And though it’s called “Free Cone Day,” you can also choose whether you want it on a cone or in a cup, if you’re watching your calories.

Here is a list of participating locations in the Orlando area:

Wekiva Springs

tn_wekiva02.JPGIf you’ve never been to Wekiva, then you’re probably missing a real treat. We’re “beach people” mostly and look for any and every weekend we can to get to the beach. But with gas prices being what they are, I looked around this weekend for alternatives. It didn’t take me long to find Wekiva. We packed a picnic and our snorkel gear.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the TEMPERATURE of the springs and found it a bit shocking! But after we got in, we quickly adjusted. Although I could tell that some people found it a bit too cold for them… if goosebumps and chattering teeth were any indication. It was a hot day too… so you would think the water would be refreshing. But I understand it’s the in the low 70s and many of us are spoiled by nearly 80 degree pools… aka bath water.

A word to the wise… get there really early or plan to get in in the late afternoon. The park will close due to overcrowding and then you have to play a waiting game to get in.

Next stop… Rock Springs!

Port Canaveral to get a “new” ship?!?

orient%20queen.jpgBefore long, we could be adding yet ANOTHER cruiseline to the already busy Port Canaveral. Currently THREE MAJOR cruise lines (Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival) call Port Canaveral “home” year round (each cruiseline with two ships) while Holland America, Norwegian and a few other cruise lines use Port Canaverl seasonally or as a port of call.

But if a new cruise company called Paradise Caribbean Cruise Lines has their way, beginning in November 2006, there will now be some mini-cruises available to cruisers. They will offer 2 night cruises to the Bahamas and 1 night cruises “to nowhere”. This 38 year old ship is formerly the Norwegian Starward and has been renamed to Orient Queen. Currently she is in the Mediterranean and operated by a middle East cruise line — Abou Mehri Cruises.

The Orient Queen is expected to operate out of Cruise Terminal 3, one of the small terminals on the south side of the port, near Jetty Park.

By comparison, this ship will be a miniature next to the giants already there. Orient Queen wieghs in at 16,000 tons, while the other cruise ships range in size from 74,000-138,000 tons.

Come one … come all … spend your dough!

tn_fair03.JPGIs it just my imagination or has the cost of going to the fair just become CRAZY?!?

As many of you know, the Central Florida Fair opened yesterday and we all headed over there on opening day for a couple of reasons. 1. No school in Orange county on Friday. This means we don’t have to clock watch on a weeknight AND be able to avoid the weekend crowds at the same time. BIG PLUS! 2. It was $1 day. It was advertised as $1 admission, $1 rides and $1 food specials. Heck… at a $1 a pop I thought this might be a savings for us over last year.

Normally we get the armbands so that the kids can go on whatever they like for as many times as they’d like. Those are $25 a piece. I don’t normally buy one myself because… frankly… I’m old and these rides do not entice me any longer. So lets do the math here….. $10 to get in (unless you’re between 5-10 and then it’s only $5 to get in). $25 a head for arm band. Ok… so for a single mother of two, I’ve already spent $75 to get in the gate on a normal night.

So remembering the expense last year, I thought that the $1 night would be a great alternative for us … and save a little dough in the process!! We arrive to a parking lot PACKED to gills (about 6pm) and paid our $1 each to get in. I bought a book of tickets 20 tickets – $20. Each ride was one ticket. GREAT! Off we go. In about 20 minutes, we completely spent all of our tickets. Wow… that was fast. I go and buy another book.

Observation – going opening night means you might not have every ride at your disposal. The water ride was down and one of my kids other favorites, Enterprise, was also not operational. These were not the only two, but certainly the most disappointing.

After about an hour or so on the rides and trying to get suckered into the “games” that seem to be growing in number and size each year, we headed over to get a bite to eat.

We didn’t have to go far to get to the food row and find an amazing assortment of smells to tempt us. All kinds of food stuffs from traditional Carnival type food to specialty items like Gyros and Eggrolls and Cesaer Salads to gorge ourselves on. Pocketbook permitting of course. We started off with Mozzarella cheese sticks ($6) and a bloomin onion ($7). Add to it two lemonades and one blue icee ($5 each) and finally a polish sausage sandwich ($6). I saw two places that had $1 OFF this or that… and ONE place that had $1 hot dogs, $1 mac-n-cheese and $1 drink. But only one. So much for the $1 food specials.

So our “dinner” added up to $34 and it’s not even a full meal — it’s two appetizers and a sandwhich plus drinks. This is not to mention cotton candy, candied apples, funnel cakes….

So let’s revisit the math again. $3 to get in. $40 in tickets and $34 on “dinner”. By the time we played a game or two, had a few more snacks, I spent the better part of $100. Don’t get me wrong, the fair is a fun time. The sights, the sounds, the smells…. it’s something you do …. it’s tradition.

Speaking of tradition – it occured to me last night that there is a tradition of these traveling fairs. A tradition of being chain smokers who smoke on the job… and a tradition of missing teeth! I am always marveling, each year, at how much fairs in general bring local people out of the woodwork that you don’t see in your everyday haunts. I have never seen more people with sub-standard dental care! Not just the fair workers, but the attendees as well. Do they not have dentists in rural parts of Florida? And if I saw one person squeezed into inappropriate clothes… painted on jeans etc… I saw 200. Someone’s mother forgot to tell them that less is more.

Ah the fair…

But my kids could have cared less that the ride operators were letting a cigarette dangle from their mouth as they strapped them into the ride. They were completely oblivious to the guy running the shooting range who had zero teeth. They didn’t mind that there were tons of piles of horse doo doo or other “unknown” puddles of something putrid smelling.

They just loved being turned upside down, round and round and inside out. They loved to eat and eat and drink and ride until they were too exhausted to do it anymore. And I, their mother, loved every minute of them loving it.

Go on out to the fair, just leave your sensibility at home… or… alternatively… go to Disney.

$82 Million Insanity

I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I’d do with $82 million.

No, I didn’t play the lottery. I’ve mostly been sitting here thinking about it because I’m supposed to be working right now.

But seriously, though. Eight-two million FREAKIN’ dollars. How many of us are working in hospitality jobs? Show of hands? Or do we have any college students here? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Everybody could use $82 million, and I think maybe Orlando could use it more than most (including the lazy freelance writers who are blogging instead of proofreading their own novel–proving that when you’re self-employed, you can still manage to waste valuable company time!).

Just try to imagine what you’d do with that much cash. You will probably surprise yourself with how fast things come to mind. Always wanted to own a boat? Thinking of buying that unpretentious little shack in Isleworth you always wanted? Done. I would personally buy a house with a HUGE office with lots and lots of shelves and hurricane-proof windows–although if I bought in Winter Garden or Windermere, I’m not sure $82 million would cover the down payment.

But here’s what occured to me, too: do you have a responsibility to use those funds for some kind of philanthropic purpose? I mean, no one’s going to come to your house and slap you around for being a greedy pig if you don’t share, but can anybody in good conscience watch a loving family member eat tunafish out of a can for three nights in a row because they’re so burdened with student debt…and then do NOTHING? What could even $5 million have done for cities like Lakeland or Vero Beach during the 2004 hurricane season? (Hopefully more than FEMA did, but I digress.)

It reminds me of Eliza’s father in “Pygmalion,” who begged Higgins to give him only five pounds because if he gave him any more, he would feel like he had to do something responsible with it. Five pounds, he argued, was just enough to cover a little bit of fun and drinking. That’s sort of how I feel about the $82 million–such a crushing burden of obscene, filthy wealth that maybe it would be impossible for any human to handle it well.

I just logged onto Internet Banking and took a look at my balance. About the $82 million being too much money and all? I think I just changed my mind…

I wonder if it’s worse to be kept up at night by your wealth or your poverty. :)

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