Wedding-Vacation 2013: Busch Gardens

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Today we all (two aunts, an uncle, three cousins, and me) went to Busch Gardens. The thing I found interesting is that is was reasonably not crowded, such that most of the rides did not have long lines, except the popular Verbolten.

Busch Gardens is a very roller coaster-heavy park, and I’m not much of a roller coaster person, but I did go on two of the water rides, the Pompeii and the Roman Rapids. Both were quite fun, though the Rapids ride gave quite a soaking. It was refreshing, though.

At first, anyway. Several hours later, when my socks were only a little less soaked than they were when we got off the ride, and my pants still felt like I peed myself, and it was less warm, then it wasn’t as fun. Lesson learned here: it probably would have been worth the five dollars to use the dryer afterward.

I also saw the predator show in the animal reserve area, but maybe it was because I was so soaked, but it just didn’t seem as appealing as such a show may once have been.

What I think this means, as I observe, is that Busch Gardens is a good park if you like coasters, are a kid, or are a parent of a younger kid, but does not have quite as much to do if you’re a young adult who doesn’t like coasters.

Even still, I did have fun on the water rides, even if by the end I was very much ready to get back to the resort and change into dry clothes.


Wedding-Vacation 2013: Jamestowne

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Due to some weird WP app thing, this is being posted later on Wednesday instead of later Tuesday.

Today my cousin and I went to Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement. We first went to the archaeological site at Historic Jamestowne. I’ve always been a bit excited to see the ruins of a settlement and it was no different here, even if many of the earlier structures have disappeared. It’s one thing to hear about Jamestown, but another thing to see it in front of you. It just makes it seem more real.

The part of the site I found perhaps most interesting is that the settlers rebuilt their church not once, not twice, but four times on the same site, and oftentimes on top of the preexisting brick. It just goes to show that letting disaster not stop us from rebuilding is nothing new (two times were after fires).

At Jamestown Settlement, it was fun to see the full structures of the James Fort and nearby Powhatan village, but I was surprised to see that the staff wasn’t in-character. This was okay, though, as it allows one to relate the structures and ships to the 21st century. It was also smaller than I expected – it is suggested that everything takes between three and four hours to see, but we were to do it in two, including watching a presentation and demonstration of a 17th century piece of artillery.

All in all, we had a fun time and learned a lot about both the settlement and the people.


Wedding-Vacation 2013: Powhatan Resort

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Just a short one tonight, as there’s not much to say yet. The train to Williamsburg, though long, was relatively uneventful, though Amtrak could do with working on their communication skills when there are delays.

My aunt, my cousin (brother of the bride from the earlier wedding posts), and I left at noon and pulled into Williamsburg around 6:40, slightly earlier then my other aunt, uncle, and cousins, who left earlier and had a shorter travel time (gotta love I-95!). Once there, we headed to our lodging at the Powhatan Resort.

A former plantation, Powhatan now boasts timeshares, but sets some aside as super fancy hotel rooms, which are not that expensive for all they come with.

One thing that hit us all when we got here: the size. This place is very large, with plenty of activities, three pools, golf, and specially-planned activities each day. The rooms are big, too. Ours has two bedrooms and bathrooms, and some kitchen amenities, given its nature as a timeshare.

We’ve only really checked out the pool so far. At night they seem to have 18 and over restrictions on one pool, which is very nice indeed.

Only major thing of note is that my other aunt and husband and sons had a bit of a fight with a skunk, who tried to take some trash left outside their unit. Yep, someone just left their trash sitting on the ground. Who does that??

So, tomorrow marks the first of at least one day of the historical tour of Williamsburg and Jamestown/Yorktown. More on that in the next post.


Wedding-Vacation 2013: Addendum to Yesterday, History Tours, Tunnels, and Theater

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Before I start on today, I’d like to make an addition to yesterday’s post, because I feel like I made the wedding ceremony and the reception sound really routine, when they were anything but that. Both were fantastic anyway, but what made them reallly stand out was the wedding party’s ability to boogie, starting as soon as the ceremony ended and they left the chapel.

When we got back to the hotel for the reception, it got even better. After my cousin and her husband were introduced, the wedding party immediately went into a rendition of the dance from Psy’s “Gentlemen.” And that there helped set the mood and cement the night into my mind.

So that was the wedding part of this trip in a nutshell.

Today officially began the vacation part of this trip, and it was also the busiest so far. The first thing was breakfast for the wedding party and the guests. Originally set for a nearby IHOP, it ended being in the hotel buffet. It was pretty good, all said.

Afterward, I bid adieu to my parents and grandfather, who

were heading back home, and went off to see the liberty bell and potentially Independence Hall. The first lesson of the day was that the SEPTA subway isn’t built to be obvious to visitors. It takes a minute to get used to. After finally figuring it out – not without some consternation – we made it to the Independence Hall mall, but did not make it to the Hall itself as tickets were sold out (I got a picture in, anyway). So we saw the liberty bell, which is much smaller than it seems and, though I get the symbolism of it, just isn’t as great as I thought it might be.

Next we decided to take a historical tour on a double-decker bus with an open top. We learned a lot about Philadelphia in 90 minutes than we ever could have by walking around ourselves. For example, did you know that Philadelphians have their own version of the “curse of the Bambino” supposedly brought on by building a structure taller than the height of William Penn’s statue? Or that the statue’s hair strands are four feet tall? Me either. The tour was highly informative and entertaining, but it did start to rain. We stuck it out up top until just before it started to pour.

After the tour we were hungry, so we subwayed it to the Terminal Station Market on Market St. It’s a packed collection of shops, vendors, and food-court style restaurants. I’ve seen one before in another city, but this one was cool nonetheless. I wanted pulled pork, but that food vendor was closed, so I got BBQ chicken instead. It was very good, and the homemade macaroni and cheese was excellent; a good meal for $10.


After dinner, we had to get back to the hotel to go see Wicked at the Kimmel Center across from our hotel, and it was still pouring, so we considered our options. We weren’t going to hoof it in the deluge, would have to take two likely expensive cabs, and I don’t think anyway else but me was up for another subway ride. Luckily my uncle found out that a guy from the tour desk was heading home (the Market was closing soon) and so we ended up with a tour in central Philadelphia’s underground pedestrian concourse that’s adjacent and providing access to the Center City subway lines. Originally built in the ’60s, it was intended as a pedestrian alternative in inclement weather. It went through its rough patch, but is apparently mostly safe now, if a bit creepy and leak-ridden in areas (and stinky every now and then). However, it’s definitely not one of those places most tourists are going to go through during their time in the city, so I was happy to experience it, even once. I like some local flavor, even if it necessitates constant vigilance. We were in a big group, though, so there was plenty of that among us.

After a brief respite at the hotel, we headed across the street for then show. One word for it: WOW! It was excellent. I’d always wanted to seen it, but it never happened, despite being visiting NYC four years in a row. The actress who played Elphaba for tonight’s show was the understudy, but she could just as well be the main actress for then role. She was that good. I’ll have a larger review for the show on the TicketNetwork Blog once I return home.

Finally, my aunt, one of my cousins, and I went for ice cream at nearby place, and it was pretty good. A little overwhelming on the options, though.

Today’s continuation to Williamsburg, VA, will be a long train day, so my report will most likely involve something outstanding (anything), and/or some commentary on the place we’re staying at. The real meat will pick up back up on Tuesday.

I close by bidding farewell to Philadelphia. I will be back as there is so much more to see.


Wedding-Vacation 2013: The Big Event

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No, I didn’t make a mistake in choosing this photo – I just really like it.

I’ll keep this one short, because what is there to say? Other than a lot of traffic making the second shuttle late, the ceremony went off without a hitch, as did the reception (which was over too fast). Everything was really well done, and nobody stumbled over words. Afterwards, we hung out at the hotel bar.

That’s pretty much it. Tomorrow marks the end of official wedding festivities and the beginning of the vacation proper, with plenty of history.


Wedding-Vacation 2013: “You took my seat”

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So for the next nine days I’m on a two-city vacation. The first leg is to attend my cousin’s wedding in Philadelphia, PA, and the second is five days in historic Williamsburg, VA.

So far, things have been rather uneventful for me, mostly because I’m on a train. So the following story is not about me, but about my aunt, who is traveling along with me, my parents, and my grandfather.

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A Quick Thought on Crohn’s

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Normally, I don’t complain about my condition. As for as Crohn’s cases go, I have a pretty mild one. I’ve never been to the hospital for it, except when I was diagnosed. Never needed medicine via infusion. Never needed surgery (and hopefully never will). Any pain is bearable and the gas, though while a nuisance, has pretty much become part of everyday life. I have to work from home every once in a while because of it, but that’s no big deal. So in my case, things are pretty good.

But you know what really sucks about it? Bathroom trips. Today I took, count ’em, five. Five. Makes it really hard to do anything when you’re in the bathroom for a total of a couple hours a day every now and then.

You know what I’d like someday? To not have to make five bathroom trips within a normal day, and three within an hour and a half of each other.

That’d be really nice.


Independence Week 2013: Warren Buffett

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Warren Buffett

By Mark Hirschey. CC-BY-SA.

For the final entry of Independence Week 2013, I’ve continued the philanthropy theme with Warren Buffett. Along with the Gates’, Buffett is perhaps one of the most prominent philanthropists of this generation. He and the Gates are the originators of The Giving Pledge, a commitment by signatory billionaires to donate much of their wealth between now and their deaths.

Now, far be it from me to say what wealthy people must do with their money; I don’t believe in that. If they want to hoard it all, good for them. If they want to give it all to their kids upon death, then that’s their prerogative. But I cannot help but admire what the 105 signatories (as of this posting) to the pledge are doing. Their donations will help improve health and education in some of the places that need it the most. The beneficiaries of these donations will have a second lease on life and, in the case of education grants, a chance to lead a better life of their own volition.

None of this is new for Buffett, who has held this commitment since 1988, and was one of the first people to do so, ushering a new kind of venture philanthrophy, which uses the principles of venture capitalism to achieve philanthropic goals. He has additionally worked with other organizations, such as the Glide Foundation, that work toward many of the same goals as the Gates Foundation.

Thanks to the donations, many people in many parts of the world will be able to achieve a kind of independence that this week is intended to celebrate.


Independence Week 2013: Bill and Melinda Gates

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Bill and Melinda Gates

Photo by Kjetil Ree. CC-BY-SA.

Today, I feature Bill and Melinda Gates. Despite what you may think of Gates’ tenure at Microsoft, even the harshest critics of his business practices will tell you they admire his philanthropy.

Since its founding in 1994, the foundation has donated billions for health research and education, among other goals, and the Gates’ plan to give even more as they get into their elder years, being among a small group of philanthropists who plan to give away most of their wealth by the time of their deaths (more on this tomorrow).

I also admire their plans to continually invest their endowment to increase it over time. I understand this is a somewhat controversial practice, at least in terms of who they’re investing in, but as pointed out above, Bill Gates is a shrewd businessman, so I think the investments should return a much larger endowment than what was initially invested, and in companies more ethical than when the foundation started its investment.

The biggest winners, of course, will be those whom had their health and education improved thanks to the donations.


Independence Week 2013: Roger Sherman

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Portrait of Roger Sherman by Ralph EarlBeing that today is Independence Day, it just seemed appropriate to feature as the topic a figure that was instrumental in the development of the Declaration of Independence.  I could, of course, choose Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, or Benjamin Franklin, or John Adams, but as I’m from Connecticut, it’d be silly of me to not pick Roger Sherman.

Sherman was a native of Massachusetts, but in early adulthood moved to Milford, and with his brother, opened the town’s first store.  He also became a surveyor for New Haven County, and was generally regarded among the top figures of the area. In 1754, he gained admission to the bar, and a year later was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives, where he served three years. In later life, he was elected Mayor of New Haven, followed by four years total in the then-new U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

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