Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finding Mickey

A Hidden Mickey you have to create
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

One of the other genius ideas by the folks at Walt Disney World is the concept of the "Hidden Mickeys" around the theme parks, resorts, and other Disney owned areas.  I don't know the whole back story behind the Mickeys, but in the book (written by Steven M. Barrett) there are more than 1,200 icons of the famous mouse around the properties.  I also have to credit my friend Devin Kidd for giving me the book.  He is the biggest Disney fan I've ever met and probably reading this from a Disney park right now.  

Do you see him?
The idea behind the Hidden Mickeys (at least I think) is to help pass the time while waiting in line at the parks.  I'll be honest, I forgot to bring the book to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, but I had it in hand at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  I also cruised around the Art of Animation Resort with it too.  Another confession, I had no luck finding the Hidden Mickeys by just reading the Scavenger Hunt portion of the book, so I skipped ahead to the "hints" chapters of each park.

How about this one?
It became quite an adventure and my kids helped in the search. When park cast members saw me with the book, they'd keep the secrets alive.  Only one helped me out and I needed it on The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios.  When I searched around the restaurant at our resort, other patrons asked me to let them know when I found the Mickey because they couldn't.  Neither could I.

Not always a picture
Each Mickey has a point value assigned, and you can tally up your score at each park, resort, or restaurant.  We didn't keep score though.  Also, they're not all just the iconic Mickey ears.  Sometimes it's the word "Mickey Mouse", a body shot of him, or a Mickey you have to create yourself.  Like I said, it's fun and it really kills the time when you're in the Standby Line waiting for a ride.

This one was pretty easy

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magic of the Band

Magic Bands when they arrive
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I wrote in a previous blog about my recent family vacation to Walt Disney World.  The experience was magical, and part of that comes in the form of the Magic Band.  Again, I know it all comes at a cost, but there's something to be said about the packaging and hospitality that Disney delivers.

Getting into the park
The Magic Band replaces your room key, credit card, and park tickets.  When planning our trip, each member of my family got to pick the color bracelet they wanted.  I chose yellow.  More personalized options are available for a fee, but ours were included in our package deal. Each band is coded with your information.   You can add your credit card details and charge things at the parks and resorts that way.  You chose your own pin so there's no need to worry about being hacked (at least not at this point)

Green means go!
The band has a Mickey Mouse icon on it, and you touch your Mouse to the Mouse at the park or store and when the green light comes on, you're good to go.  We used them to make various purchases and track our FastPasses.  You have to scan it before getting in the FastPass line and then again before getting on the ride.  The bands are water proof, so you can shower in them or hit the pool or water parks.  

The concept is really convenient as you don't ever have to worry about bringing your wallet and losing it on a ride or dropping your room key or park passes.  If you do the Memory Maker photo package, the pictures are wirelessly transmitted to your band and available online for downloading.  I would suspect that eventually theme parks around the country will pick up and develop this concept in some form.

Band bling
I know there will be cynical thoughts about the company tracking your every move, but honestly, I'm fine with that.  For I have tasted the Disney Koolaid, and I do enjoy it.  There were a couple of small quirks, but they were quickly resolved and the company even credited us for the inconvenience.  Oh, and there are different things you can add to the bands to personalize them as well, although we did not go that route.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Lessons Learned at Disney & Universal Studios

We found Nemo

 By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

My family recently wrapped up an amazing eight day adventure to Disney World and Universal Studios.  My mom, who is currently in remission after a battle with bladder cancer, wanted to take all five of her grand kids to Disney World, so luckily, my brother and his family, my wife and kids, and my parents were able to make it happen.  We've been before, but this is the first time all 11 of us were together for the trip.  As you might imagine, I've learned some lessons along the way...

Memory Maker in action 
10.  Splurge on the Memory Maker PhotoPass.  It costs $149, but this option gives you access to all the pictures that are taken of your party at any given Disney Park.   We have nearly 50 photos and two videos.  Anytime you're on a ride, the pic "magically" connects with your Magic Band and you don't have to wait in line to purchase individual photos.  We have plenty of great, professional shots to share now as a result.

My nephew
9. When a four year old tells you he has to poop, he means it.  A couple of times my nephew got caught up in the excitement of the Disney Magic and didn't make it to the bathroom on time.  In one case, we were about to board the Toy Story Midway Mania ride.  But like the professionals they are, the folks at Disney's Hollywood Studios gave my dad and nephew new FastPasses so they could enjoy the ride too.

8.  Read the instructions thoroughly when the information comes in the mail.  I screwed up and didn't make sure that my brother received his luggage tags when they were mailed to us. You put the "Disney" tag on your suitcase and the folks there get it from the airport and deliver it straight to your room.  You can get off the plane and head straight to the Magical Express Bus and not worry about your baggage.

Seven Dwarfs, it was fun!
7.  Roller coasters hurt more after you hit 40.  We rode everything from the Rock n Roller Coaster, to Space Mountain, to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  The kids rode some of these more than once.  I didn't venture onto the Hulk this year because after the Dragon Challenge, Expedition Everest, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, my body had enough.  Don't get me wrong, they're all enjoyable rides, but the older I get the more things like Winnie The Pooh, Peter Pan, and Dumbo appeal to me.

My parents and the kids
6.  People tend to not pay attention to folks in wheelchairs.  My mom, as I mentioned, is in remission from cancer.  She's also dealing with other health issues, including a severe case of asthma.  Our first full day we spent at Magic Kingdom and all the walking wore her out, so we rented a wheelchair the rest of our stay at the parks.  In general, people are respectful, and the Disney cast members go out of their way to accommodate on rides and in restaurants.  But there were a lot of people who cut in front of the chair, make snide comments, or completely ignore it.  It made me more aware of others in similar situations.

Casting spells at Universal Studios
5.  Take time to cast a spell at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Harry Potter fans can end up at Hogwarts and visit Diagon Alley.  You need tickets to both parks to do this though.  There are interactive wands to purchase and you're able to do different tricks at the various store fronts.  I'll share more on that in a future post.

Flaming Moe & a Krusty Burger
4.  When visiting Universal Studios, you have to eat at Krusty Burger, get a beer a Moe's Tavern, and have a donut at LardLad Donuts.  As a Simpsons geek, I was in heaven in the newly updated Simpsons area of the park.  I drank a Flaming Moe, Buzz Cola, and Duff Lite while there.  I'll go into greater details later this week.

Our resort 
3.  Don't leave the Magic behind.  We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort for six nights.  We left and took a cab over to the Holiday Inn next to Universal Studios for a couple of days of Harry Potter, Simpsons, and Marvel fun.  In hindsight, I think we should have stayed on the Disney property (as they will arrange transportation to get you over to Universal and back).  To be fair to the folks at Universal, we did not stay in one of their resorts, so I don't know if things would have been better on their property then a regular hotel.

Magic Kingdom after midnight
2.  Take a day to rest.  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon.  After getting checked in at the resort, the eleven of us hopped on a bus and hit Downtown Disney.  Every day after that we opened and closed the parks, including Universal Studios across town.  Magic Kingdom was open until 2 am on one of our nights there, so my niece, son, and daughter, went back with me for some late night fun.  We always talk about taking a day to relax and enjoy the pool at the resort.  One day we will.

Loving the Magic!
1.  Disney Magic, although paid for, is real.  I can't properly express in words how much more enjoyable the Disney experience is compared to any other vacation I've ever been on before.  From the way the resorts are decorated, to the buses to get you to and from parks, to the Magical Express to and from the airport or even other theme parks, to the overall hospitality. It was a great trip, made even more special by the way we were treated while at Disney World.  Walt Disney's legacy is alive and well and I can not wait to return to his Kingdom.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rest in Peace: Saturday Morning Cartoons

Some of the classics
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

As a kid growing up in St. Louis, we had five TV channels.  ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and an independent station; KPLR.  Eventually Fox was thrown into the mix, but before the days of cable, that was all we had.  And we had to get up and walk to the TV to change the channel.  Barbaric I know.

One of my fondest memories as a kid was waking up early on Saturday mornings (something that seemed so easy compared to getting up for school), pouring a big bowl of sugar coated cereal, and zoning out in front of the boob tube.  My brother and I would watch hours of cartoons in the early morning hours each week.

The Smurfs were always my favorite.  I remember very well when the tiny blue creatures debuted on NBC back in 1981.  I was in the third grade and embraced the characters like I'd never done before.  More than 30 years later,  I still love them.  

The competitors
There were countless other classic cartoons that we grew up watching.  Hanna-Barbera cartoons never failed to entertain.  I was hooked on Scooby Doo, so much so, that I told people I wanted to be him when I grew up.  The actual dog, not the guy who voiced him or the one who drew him, but the real Scooby Doo.  I was seven though, so give me a break.  Yogi Bear, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Laff-a-Lympics were just a few of the other memorable programming produced by this dynamic duo.  I would get lost in the talking bears, dogs, and even sharks that appeared on my screen every week.  Eventually my love of wrestling got animated with Hulk Hogan's Rock N Wrestling Cartoon too.  I was in heaven.

Other than a few syndicated Warner Brothers cartoons and Fat Albert in the afternoons, I don't remember there being a whole lot of other animated choices during the week.  That's what made Saturday mornings so special.  Then as cable and satellite got popular, all kids networks popped up and new cartoons were produced.  Cartoon Network was born, showing those classics from the 60's, 70's, and 80's.  Eventually new (less cool) shows came about, and those vintage shows ended up on another new network, Boomerang. 

The point is, no one has to wait for cartoons anymore.  You can watch Spongebob Square Pants, Adventure Time, or Phineas and Ferb anytime you want.  It seems at any given hour of the day or night you can flip through the hundreds of channels and find something animated on the TV.  The novelty wore off, and then the networks started replacing cartoons with news programming and live action content. 

I recently read that NBC and CBS stopped airing cartoons in the 90's.  ABC dropped the animation in 2004.  Most recently, the last broadcast network to air cartoons was the CW.  On October 4, 2014, they pulled the plug too.  Now for the first time in decades, none of the "regular" TV channels air cartoons on Saturday mornings.  It's the end of an era, one that I truly do miss. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Drop the Puck

By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Tonight is the official kick off to the 2014-2015 NHL season. Tonight will set in motion several stories to follow over the next eight months. Will the Los Angeles Kings be the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back Stanley Cups? Will the Chicago Blackhawks live up to preseason hype? Will a name change help the Arizona Coyotes gain a bigger fan base? Will I learn enough about hockey to actually write sensible, informative hockey blogs? 

The plan for tonight is to watch the Montreal Canadians vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game followed by the LA Kings banner raising game against the team who came in 2nd in my “which team do I cheer for” decision, the San Jose Sharks. While I won’t be there in person, it should still be a good game and I’m hoping the Sharks get some revenge on the Kings’ for their improbable playoff series victory. 

Right now the first live game on the calendar looks to be a trip to Anaheim to watch the Ducks battle the St. Louis Blues on October 19. Last year when I saw the Blues play, TJ Oshie scored the first hat trick of his career. Will Oshie turn in a similar outstanding performance? Will new Defense addition, Clayton Stoner add depth to the Ducks roster? Is it obvious with that last sentence, I shouldn’t actually talk about the specifics of hockey? 
2014 Stanley Cup
In addition to some Kings and Ducks game, I’ll once again hit the road with @mikedekalb to visit potentially 10 different venues this season. From Florida to Canada and states in between, hopefully my frequent flier club membership becomes beneficial. Also hoping to work in a handful of minor league hockey games as well.

People following the blog over the past few weeks should be aware that before the season started, I was in search of an official team to cheer for this season. I laid out my top ten choices and have come to a decision. I thought the decision would be tough but really there was very little doubt. I’m naming the San Jose Sharks as my west coast team. With time zones being what they are, I figured why not have a team that I can watch live given my work schedule. Out of the teams in the Pacific Division, the Sharks are my favorite. Not to mention, the Sharks play the Kings in an outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium. Since Kevin and I won’t be going to Wrestlemania next year, this would be a good excuse to see the stadium outside of football season. 

While the Sharks are my “mistress” team as my friend calls it, my full support will go to the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ve liked the Penguins since the early ‘90s so it makes sense to stick with them. Plus, the Penguins actually responded to my blog regarding choosing a team. I figure if they’ll reach out to me then they may be a team that actually cares about their fans. 

Right now, if I have my date correct, the plan is be in Pittsburgh on January 18 for a game against the Rangers. If anyone from the Penguin organization is reading this and wants to be awesome and offer a tour of the arena or a guaranteed photo op with Iceburgh, or any other gifts that would be awesome. I will most likely also try to attend the Penguins games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks in March. That would be a good hat trick road trip. 

The champs
Last season was an exciting season for a hockey fan. After a wild playoff series and exciting Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m hoping there’s no hockey hangover for my second season of fandom. Now, drop the puck and start the season.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Myself

Edan's going away party
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

For nearly eleven years I have worked at the same TV station, WSIL.  I've made many friends while here, including Edan Schultz, the 6 and 10 o'clock anchor and managing editor for the station.

Edan had been with the station more than 19 years and just recently announced that he was leaving for Florida.  His wife found a great job there.  Friends, colleagues, and family members recorded heartfelt well wishes to the long time journalist. The theme was the same in all of them:  Edan is a great guy.  A mentor.  A friend to all who knew him.

New Year's Eve 80's Style
Edan: Blockbuster guy, Me: Papa Smurf, Chad: Mr. Mullet
I echoed those same sentiments in my goodbye to him.  We've shared plenty of good times together, including New Years Eve celebrations, Thanksgiving dinners, and time out on Crab Orchard Lake.  My kids used to call him Uncle Edan and we'd ring his doorbell every year at Halloween.  We hung out with various coworkers until the wee hours of the morning talking about everything you can imagine.

Edan with my daughter
One of my favorite Edan memories from work happened when I first started working at WSIL.  It was before I'd moved to the morning show and was reporting nightside on a new "gentlemen's club" that had moved into the area.  There was a church group protesting the club and I was doing a live shot from the parking lot for the 10 o'clock news.  

Hanging out at the lake
I remember standing there, ready to go on, somewhat nervous as drunk college guys staggered behind me before we went on air.  Then I hear Edan's toss to me and he says "News 3's Kevin Hunsperger has been at the strip club all night, and join us with more."  It took everything I had to not laugh at that, as I wondered if our viewers thought I was inside with dollar bills in hand waiting to file my report.

Even though I'm a few months older, I always looked up to Edan.  He's been a great mentor to me and countless others.  Our boss called him the backbone of the newsroom, and I think that's a very fitting description.  Edan sleeps, eats, and breathes news, and we're all the better because of it.  He'll be missed.  And even though some viewers confuse the two of us, I hope I have just a fraction of the impact Edan has had on this region.  

I realize that some of this sounds like I'm writing his eulogy, but I've been thinking about the idea of telling the people you appreciate and respect while they're still around to hear it.  I look back a couple of years ago when I gave my grandma's eulogy and I wish now that I'd said those things TO her and not ABOUT her.  So I think it's perfectly fine to show a little (or a lot) of love to the people you think are worthy of it.  So be ready for more appreciation blogs here on My 1-2-3 Cents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What If Wednesday? Ted DiBiase Wins the Wrestlemania IV Tournament

DiBiase vs. Savage
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

Flashback to 1988, the final round of the WWF World Championship Tournament. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, with some help from Hulk Hogan, pinned "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase to win the 16 man competition.  Hogan effectively passed the torch to Savage that night, further solidifying his spot in wrestling history.

I've read reports before that DiBiase was originally slated to win the match and the championship.  It would have been an interesting dynamic had it actually happened, because with the exception of The Iron Sheik's one month reign, there hadn't been a heel heavyweight champion in a decade.

I have no doubt that DiBiase could have done it. He had the skills both in the ring and on the mic. But from a marketing standpoint, and let's face it, that's the bottom line in any business, I don't think kids would have clamored for MDM dolls, tshirts, or foam fingers.  Savage and DiBiase would have likely feuded through the summer though, as Hogan was off making No Holds Barred.  

DiBiase & Andre vs. Hogan
Photo courtesy: WWE
Instead of the SummerSlam main event being a tag team match, I think DiBiase would have dropped the title to Savage, because what would have been the point of turning the Macho Man into a face?  This would have lead to the eventual separation of Hogan and Savage and the Hulkster regaining the gold.  That match at Wrestlemania was the money match and I think one of Hogan's best Mania showings.  I don't know that they could have carried out a Hogan-DiBiase storyline that would last for so long.

DiBiase wouldn't have been the champion long, but it would have been a nice way to shake things up within a company that relied so heavily on the good guys to carry the torch.  But just think, we would have never had the Million Dollar championship either.