Tag Archives: vacation

Park People Parade Purposefully

Pick your poison, dudes.

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World, I simultaneously envy and pity you. I have a massive love-hate relationship with Mouschwitz, knowing how much happiness it brings to most and how much misery it’s brought to me in the past.

Still, this last time, I actually had more fun than not. And that’s something of a first for me.

How to describe the Magic Kingdom? It’s been called (relentlessly) The Happiest Place On Earth and the cast members there certainly try to force you to live up to that logo. They are smiling all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that facial smile fatigue is the most-treated concern at the Disney Docs.

Completely covered in concrete, the Magic Kingdom is what first comes to mind when most dudes think about Walt Disney World. It’s made up of Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland , Main Street USA, Mickey’s Toontown Circus and Liberty Square. Crowds enter on Main Street and are forced to walk down the double rows of shops and emporiums on their way to Cinderella’s Castle at the end of the street.

Once there, they can branch off into any of the different areas. Famous rides include Space Mountain (my favorite as it’s almost a thrill ride instead of a theme ride), Splash Mountain, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (my third favorite), the Haunted Mansion (my second favorite), the Jungle Cruise and many, many more. Since we went in December, it wasn’t as broiling hot as in the summer months (although most days it got up to 85 Fahrenheit) and the crowds were lighter.

All in all, we had a pretty tremendous time. Hyper Lad enjoyed a lot of the rides, with one severe exception, while the wife and I had a good time as well, actually going on all the rides together, instead of a certain someone sitting it out.

Animal Kingdom was, I thought, very much improved over the last time I went there. In addition to a simply amazing safari ride, I finally experienced the Expedition Everest roller coaster, in which we “escaped” from a Yeti attack. The Animal Kingdom is divided into sections featuring Africa, Asia, Dino Land, Camp Minnie-Mickey and Discovery Island. We had a lot of fun watching the various animal antics and going back in time millions of years to get screamed at by a Carnataurus.

EPCOT was home to three of what turned out to be very, very fun rides. At Mission: Space, Hyper Lad and I went on a virtual Mission to Mars, which featured some very convincing combinations of physical movement and video to make us think we IMG_4184were piloting a ship down to the surface of Mars. At the Test Track, Hyper Lad designed his own massively powered car, which we then drove around a track to “test.” We also enjoyed Soarin’ in The Land section, which combined a moving bench and a very large video of flying, to make us think we were in a hang glider.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, though, was the most disappointing. Although we enjoyed Star Tours (a virtual ride in an out-of-control spaceship in the Star Wars universe) and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, there wasn’t much else at the park to hold our interest. Although I did get to ride a speeder, so there was that.

All in all, I’d have to say that Disney World made a much better impression on me this time around. Maybe I’m older and less easily angered or annoyed (although I seriously doubt that last one), or having older young dudes along for the ride made for a less-stressful experience, but, whatever the case, it made for an enjoyable short vacation.

Not sure if I’d go back there, but I feel like I can actually recommend other people go without feeling like a hypocrite.

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Photo Finish To Happiness

A picture is worth a thousand Prozac.

Or something.

Sure, the original saying is about a thousand words, and involves the picture’s ability to create a very specific image of a place, or evoke an astonishingly real emotion, but bear with me here. I do have a point.

Pictures are more than simply images on a page, or pixels on a screen, data on a computer drive. Pictures, no matter the medium, can be a gateway to happiness at any time of the day, any season of the year.

At Casa de Dude, we have an Apple TV. It’s a set-top box that streams content from the web onto our television set. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be, but we use it for something a bit more prosaic.

The Apple TV has a number of different screen saver modes, but the one we use is the one that throws images from our photo stream of recent pictures onto the television so we can sit and watch it. And that’s what we’ll do. Someone will mention what was going on in one photo and then we’ll all look and start to see other pictures of similar events.

Sooner than we realize, it’s two hours later and all we’ve been doing is watching pictures flash by on the screen.

I imagine it’s rather like forcing someone to watch your vacation snaps, only in this case people actually want to see the pictures.

We’re not the only people who enjoy pictures and see them as a value, an aid in achieving happiness. Take, for instance, the Happiness Project. In a blog post from earlier this year, Gretchen Rubin, a (believe it or not) important writer on happiness, talked about seven different ways that photographs can boost your happiness.

The first two reasons should come as no surprise as, basically, it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about here at Casa de Dude:

1. Photos remind us of the people, places, and activities we love.

2. Photos help us remember the past.

One thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is using my futurephone to take pictures of things that interest me, or as notes that I’ll want to go back to at a later date. I also have been using pictures from there as a sort of filing cabinet. Again, not alone.

3. Photos can save space while preserving memories.  Rubin talks about a service that offers to take pictures of kids’ artwork and then let you keep the photos to look at while storing the artwork. Not a bad idea.

4. A photo of something can sometimes replace the thing itself. This was something I ran into just yesterday. I was working through some pictures and trying to sort them by person when I ran across a series of pictures of my mom, who died in 2011. I smiled through tears to see her so many times so unexpectedly.

5. Photographs allow you to curate things you love. This one was something about Pinterest and, really, even though I’m there, I don’t quite understand it so I’m just passing.

6. Taking photos fosters creativity. Seems pretty self explanatory.

7. Taking photographs can act as a diary. Here’s something I’ve been working on lately. My futurephone has a new app called Memoir. It’s a great little app that goes through my photos and then throws up the pictures I took on that day a year ago, or two, or three or whatever year it can. Another app called Momento is a great daily diary that integrates with my social media feeds and my photos.

With the rise of the futurephone camera, taking pictures has never been easier. Not only that, but it’s easier than ever to actually look at them beyond the day you brought them home from the photo development store. No more shoeboxes.

Hit the digital photo file where you have your photographs stored and haul them out. You’ll be astonished by how much your young dudes and dudettes have grown even in such a short time.

And then laugh.


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Freaky Friday: Stay Awake And Get Fat

How’s that for a sweeps-month, scare-the-snot-out-of-you type of headline? Yeah, it’s something that’s almost guaranteed to get your eyeballs glued to the page, wanting to see more about this.

All I’d need to do is throw in the words free and sex and maybe iPhone and I’ve got a pageview magnet. Still, it’s not all about the pageviews. This here is a real thing.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, losing sleep over the fact that you’re overweight (or, really, for any reason at all) is a pretty sure way to actually make yourself gain more weight.

Losing sleep tends to make people eat more and gain weight, and now a new study suggests that one reason may be the impact that sleep deprivation has on the brain.

The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.

In other words, your brain is hitting you with a double whammy. Your body is craving a hit of that sweet, salty, fat load of goodness we call junk food. And, just when your body most needs to have your brain in control and exercising a little restraint, the part of the brain that’s in charge of restraint goes out for a well-deserved vacation, leaving instant gratification in charge for a while.

Not a good combination.

Of course, it was possible that we, the sleep-deprived masses, simply craved more food because our bodies had to make up for the calories expended when we stayed awake instead of sleeping soundly. It was possible to believe it until this new study came out, that is.

“Their hunger was no different when they were sleep deprived and when they had a normal night of sleep,” (said Matthew P. Walker, an author of the study and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley). “That’s important because it suggests that the changes we’re seeing are caused by sleep deprivation itself, rather than simply being perhaps more metabolically impaired when you’re sleep deprived.”

Least you think this is all made up, let me assure you that the link between lack of sleep and weight gain is one that has been well established by a number of studies throughout the year. It’s real. Sleep less, weigh more. Not only that, but sleep deprivation can inflict a whole host of other potentially deleterious effects on your body. This new study, though, really focused in on what happened in the brain when the subjects skipped sleep and then started drooling over different food pictures.

The research showed that when the subjects were bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, they strongly preferred the food choices that were highest in calories, like desserts, chocolate and potato chips. The sleepier they felt, the more they wanted the calorie-rich foods. In fact, the foods they requested when they were sleep deprived added up to about 600 calories more than the foods that they wanted when they were well rested.

At the same time, brain scans showed that on the morning after the subjects’ sleepless night, the heavily caloric foods produced intense activity in an almond-shaped structure called the amygdala, which helps regulate basic emotions as well as our desires for things like food and experiences. That was accompanied by sharply reduced responses in cortical areas of the frontal lobe that regulate decision-making, providing top down control of the amygdala and other primitive brain structures.

All of which goes a long way toward explaining why dudes make such bad choices the day after an all-nighter. And when I say dudes, I mean, of course, mostly me. Who hasn’t woken bleary-eyed from a night of tossing and turning only to find themselves making a direct line from bathroom to cupboard, searching for that one last donut?

Bit takeaway health tip here, dudes. Make sure you get enough sleep, even if only to avoid eating more donuts. Save ’em for me.

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