Monday, May 25, 2009

Want to fly?

This is a pretty good way to get close to it!

video

Check out Scream Time Zipline if you want to give this a try. Highly recommended!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Healthcare Rant

No, this isn't a typical one. It's not even a partisan rant, in my opinion. But here it is:

Doctors deserve to retire early and rich.

There, I said it. As healthcare plans and ideas for "fixing" it all are bantered around, please keep this one little sentence in mind. Let's break it down into two pieces.

First, the early part. Why early? Lots of good reasons. First, as we age our talents and skills deteriorate. It's natural. Sure, there are exceptions and notice I didn't say they have to retire early, just that I want them to be able to. I don't want to be operated on by a doctor in his sixties that's still working because he can't afford to retire yet. I wouldn't mind it if he's doing it because he's still one of the best people at what he does, I just don't want doctors hanging on to the profession because they need to financially. Another good reason is that we as humans are naturally resistant to change and old doctors learned how to doctor a long time ago. Techniques and procedures improve over time, and education does as well. That's not to say a young doctor will always be better...far from it. I'm just saying it's a good thing in general for a doctor who feels like it is time to move on to be able to.

Okay, now for the potential fire starter...the rich part. Why do doctors deserve to retire rich? It's simple to me. It's very hard to become a doctor. It takes a heavy up front investment of time, energy, and in most cases money to just become a doctor. It should also require a level of initial intelligence that's very high. For that to happen it needs to be a competition to even get accepted into medical schools. That means people need to want to become doctors, and want to in a big way. That competition will weed out those that are less intelligent.

I want that weed-out process. I think it's important to maintaining a high quality of health care. So how do we best achieve it? Well, it certainly isn't by removing one of the biggest incentives to becoming a doctor, and that is money. The role of a doctor in society has and always will be somewhat revered for many reasons, and money has always been one of these. I'm fine with that. I think we should all be fine with that. No, I'm not saying you have to turn every doctor into a multi-millionaire by the time they are forty years old. But I am saying they should be able to retire by 55 to a life of leisure that includes boating, golf, country clubs, and dinner parties with friends. A high level of comfort, if you will. This will help insure the best and the brightest continue to WANT to become a doctor in this country.

Canadian medical schools are having trouble getting enough students from what I understand. This does not bode well for the future of the Canadian medical system, in my opinion. Let's don't let that happen here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Corporate taxation is just sales tax.

Let's get something straight. When there are two options presented and one is tax people and the other is tax companies, they are really the SAME THING. Huh? How can this be? I mean, on the one hand, money comes out of my pocket and goes straight to the government. On the other hand, money comes from big corporations that are making BILLIONS and goes to the government. So taxing them instead of me is good. Right? Wrong. They're still taxing you.

Think about this for a second. Companies are built to make money. That's the purpose. Small companies make money for their owners, bigger businesses make money for their investors. Okay, fine. Can't we just let the government take some of that money? Sure, we can, and we do. But where does it really come from? Most of the time, corporate taxation is leaned toward the big companies because they have the bigger profits to take a percentage of. The companies with the investors. Why? Because they are an easier target. They're busy trying to make the next quarter earnings projections and generally not paying attention to lawmakers. Small business owners, however, would go nuts if you tried to touch THEIR profits. Why? Because that's what they generally pay themselves with. And when they pay themselves the government gets income tax. So it's pretty obvious that if the government dips the company first and then dips the owner's salary, well, they are double dipping.

Now apply that logic to big corporate taxes. Same thing. Only they get away with it. Okay, still, you say fine, those big investors are making big money so they can afford to get double dipped. But that's not the way it works. Those companies are under the same pressure to grow and make money whether they are taxed or not. The only way they can grow and make money is to recoup that tax from somewhere, and that's through charging more to customers, period. End of story. That's where the money COMES FROM. It's more important to look at where it comes from than where it's going in this case. Because it comes from OUR POCKETS. The consumers. And to get that tax paid means WE PAY IT. The investors still have to see their expected return rate or they won't invest and the company will die. So where does that shortfall have to come from? The income side.

So, when the government says they're not going to increase YOUR taxes but instead are going to go after the "big corporations", don't fall for it. They're taxing you right behind your back. The worst part is they're going after companies that may not be able to fight it up front, but once the tax laws are passed they will most certainly spend a LOT of money working around those same laws. There is an entire industry out there of corporate tax services, attorneys, and even huge companies who LOVE to see these things passed. Why? More work for them. But think about this for a second. Sure, it's good to create jobs in some ways, but is it REALLY good to create jobs that do NOTHING but try to circumvent the same government that created the job to begin with? To me that's nothing more than wheel spinning, and it is yet another thing we've now CREATED that does nothing to actually help the overall economy. No product is produced for export. No product is produced for consumption. At the end of the day the people in those jobs exist only because the government created a sandbox for them to play in.

A very expensive sandbox at that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bars

I love me some Mickey's Premium. It's nothing terribly special in terms of recipe...it's simply a Nestle concoction of vanilla ice cream dipped in dark chocolate and placed on a stick. It's also in that awesome Mickey shape. But the best part? They're available just about everywhere in Disney. Why is that good? Well, because I just got back from Disney and I love them! I was able to limit myself to just two during the trip, but I didn't limit much else!

A couple months ago our friend Jane sent an email to a group of her friends, including Ashley and I, asking if anyone was interested in an adults-only trip to somewhere and she was particularly interested in New York City. Little did she know, however, that the group she sent it to didn't include anyone who was interested in going to NYC. Everyone had been and liked it okay, but just wasn't interested in going back right now. But I suggested we do something crazy and go to Disney instead! Sadly, some of our other friends just couldn't do it right now, but Jane and Alan and Ashley and I found a weekend that worked for us, lined up babysitters, and made the trip.

We flew out really early on Saturday morning and stayed through Monday evening on Southwest Airlines. Big plug here...yet again, SWA had great service. I really love that airline. Upon arrival in Orlando we boarded the Disney Magical Express bus service to our resort. Even though the service wasn't busy, I will say it doesn't seem that incredibly organized and isn't terribly easy to find from the gate area. I suppose if it was more busy you could just follow the crowd, though. But the bus service was good. We didn't use the baggage service as we were only there three days so it was easy to just carry-on and keep everything with us, though that might not have been the best plan since if you fly out very early (we left at 7:15am and were at our resort by 9:30am) you still have to store your bags until later anyway. But this way you do have access to your bags and a bathroom if you need to do any preparation before heading to the park, so consider that if following this basic plan.

We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside. That was probably the biggest problem area on the trip, but not for us, for Jane and Alan. We booked rooms together so they gave us adjoining rooms (though we didn't really request that and didn't need it, it would have been handy). Unfortunately, while our entire building was non-smoking, the previous occupants of their room had taken it upon themselves to leave it smelling like a chimney. Understandably, they complained. That got them a complimentary deodorizing service (yippee) and a small credit on their bill for that night, but there were no more rooms available until the next day (right!) so they had to live with it. The next day they did get another room, but were stuck in that "it won't be ready until 4pm" state, so they just put their bags in our room. Sadly, the new room was also a LONG way from ours (as in four buildings away), so it made meeting up to get going a bit more of a problem.

Aside from that, everything was okay at Port Orleans, but not great. I typically try to stay at Hampton Inn hotels when I'm traveling to most places because I like that they seem to have clean duvet covers, replace their carpets on good schedules, and generally keep things working well enough to not have lots of room key issues and the like. Port Orleans gets a fail on all of that as they just have typical polyester comforters, fairly old carpets and such, and Jane and Alan had two occasions where their room keys wouldn't work on the new room (in 24 hours!). They did end up with a free night in addition to their small credit for the first night, but our term for the Port Orleans stay was that it was far from "magical." I don't believe these kinds of things are nearly as likely if you stay at a more deluxe resort, so keep that in mind when making your decision on how much to spend on your Disney resort. We were only there two nights, and it was pretty annoying for Jane and Alan.

So what did we do? Everything! Well, dang near it. We stored all our bags and headed for our first park, Animal Kingdom. We chose our park order based on the schedule of hours things were open. AK is usually only open until 5pm, so we hit that first. There we did the Kali River Rapids where Ashley and Jane got SOAKED by a huge wall of water on the big drop. Alan and I were a little wet, but they got drenched. The wall of water was so huge it was like watching it happen in slow motion. We also hit Expedition Everest, and in my opinion no Disney trip is complete without riding that at least once. Great roller coaster. We did the Kilimanjaro Safari as well (with NO LINE!) along with the Dinosaur time travel thing and the tiny little roller coaster in the "fair" type park right outside the Dino ride. Lines were all pretty minimal. Ooh, we also had some pretty good pork BBQ for lunch there.

After that, we headed over to Magic Kingdom where we got our first taste of trying to do a sit-down restaurant for supper at Disney. Here's a recommendation...make reservations for sitting down to eat as soon as you possibly can. Like when you book your plane tickets! It was a no-go everywhere with sit-down service. Oops. As for rides, we did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Alan and I twice!), Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, the Philharmagic, and probably another or two I'm forgetting. I think we headed out around 8pm after a really long day that started at 4 a.m. for Ashley and not long after that for the rest of us! We still hadn't eaten yet, so we ended up back at the resort food court. But at least they did have a mai-tai for us.

Next up was getting up and heading to Disney's Blizzard Beach water park. Now this was awesome! Aside from just having a lot of kick-butt slide-type rides, the place is awesome. Lots of natural shade, clean, nice, and fun. We did pretty much everything there at least once, including Alan and I hitting the huge slide. You go near 60MPH thanks to a huge drop before letting the water slow you down nicely. That's an insane rush. We also did some toboggan racing where I won the first one barely and Ashley crushed us on the second one (she figured out at least one trick, possibly more!). The hit of the day was really the lazy river, though. It meanders around the ENTIRE park. I think we spent about 45 minutes on it, just bouncing around, splashing, getting each other wet in the various little waterfall and squirter sections, etc. It was really great. I think we spent about four hours there, but the lines were reasonable and everything was a lot of fun (well, maybe except Alan's big boo-boo he got on his knee trying to get a big start on the tobbogan race!).

After leaving there we went back to our hotel, showered and changed, and headed to Hollywood Studios (which used to be MGM Studios, but they've changed the name) to finish off our day (it didn't close until 10pm that day). Again we tried to have a sit-down supper to no avail (did I mention you need reservations insanely early for that!) and had to settle for the "ABC Commissary." Alan and I rode the Aerosmith Rock-n-roll rollercoaster twice and the girls rode it once. Past that we all rode Star Tours, Tower of Terror (still probably my favorite ride ever) and finished with the new Toy Story ride. None of the lines were bad except the new Toy Story ride, and it was TERRIBLE for most of the day. We saw as high as 85 minute wait times posted on the board, but we went right before closing and probably only waited 25 minutes or so. But let me say, that thing is pretty cool. It's just a video game type ride that's in 3D where you compete against your partner in a shooting gallery type game, but it's really well done and a lot of fun. As I predicted, once I found out what it was, Ashley won. We were trying to do a boys versus girls team competition, but Jane's score was apparently so low she refused to report it and thus we're pretty sure the boys won.

So after another pretty long day we turned in around 11pm with plans to meet early on Monday, our last day. We had to store our luggage and check out, so we did that, got breakfast, and got on a bus to Epcot to get there right when it opened at 9am. We immediately headed to Soarin' where we got fastpasses and got in line. We waited about 20 minutes to ride that first time, which was pretty good. We found out we had ridden it a bunch of times before and always been in row 1 when loading by some fluke, but this time we were row 3. It's still good, but in row 2 and 3 you see feet dangling above you. Nothing in row 1, which is nice. Anyway, after that we headed out to ride Test Track, where we had almost no wait. Back over to Soarin' for our fastpass ride, where we got row 1. Yay! Then off to Norway to ride the water ride there. Not worth bothering with, but at least there was no wait and it was air conditioned. Oh, we got another fastpass for Soarin' while we were there and did it one more time. Then we went and rode Mission: Space. Wow. What an incredible ride. I can't even describe it. Jane and I did the "more intense" version and Ashley and Alan the less intense one (thanks to her motion sickness), but all enjoyed it a lot. Then off for food and a margarita in the Mexican area, and then time for a little shopping and back to our resort to pick up luggage and take the Magical Express back to the airport.

It was a whirlwind three days, that's for sure. But it was great. Lines weren't that bad, though a few were a little unexpected. One thing Disney does is manage their buses well. That's good for them, but not so good for visitors. By that I mean there are still adequate buses, but they're gonna still be full, too. More often than not we were standing on the bus, and even when sitting they got pretty full. They also manage park hours pretty well and that keeps line length up on the high-demand rides, though again, nothing was too bad right now. One thing to remember is that if you want to go to Hollywood Studios for things like the stunt shows and the backlot tour you can't use evening hours for that. Those shows all seem to stop around 5pm, so you still have to get their early for that stuff. So check those schedules!

We did try hard to maximize fun per dollar, and three days was enough to do a water park, hit every big ride, and not feel like we missed much (though we did want to see a couple of those stunt shows). But you're tired after it all, too. The dreaded "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation" syndrome, as it were. A more laid back approach would have been another day, obviously, but that's gonna cost you. I liked how we did it and felt like it worked out great. I think our only "wish" might have been better accommodations, but then again we might not do it much different if we did it again since we just didn't spend much time there anyway (and while the room key and smoke thing was a major pain for Alan and Jane, it isn't that likely to happen again).

All in all, great trip, fairly affordable, and great fun with great friends.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ticks suck.

Ticks suck. Literally and figuratively. And they are extremely bad around here all of the sudden this year. I've pulled six off of me after three mountain bike rides this week, and three had bitten me already. This is highly annoying. Thinking of stealing the dog's Frontline or something. Yowza!