Five Things Friday – Vacation Ideas for 2014 and More!

Monday Musings Pics2

Happy Friday! This week has been crazy and exhausting, and the weekend looks to be pretty much the same – it is junior prom weekend and my older son and his girlfriend are going along with a bunch of other friends. I have already decided to take the weekend off from running, so if I DO end up heading out it will be a bonus. Through efficiency and good weather I’m already over 50 miles, so a weekend off with family with be great.

In my ‘marvelous’ post I mentioned that the new ballroom dancing class Lisa and I were taking has been a blast and something we are looking forward to … but this week it got canceled due to a sick instructor. Not to miss out on a chance to be together, Lisa and I had a date night at TGIFridays … any opportunity to be together! I dropped a picture on a href=””>Instagram. Apparently now I am the Mayor of our local TGIFridays, which leaves me with a question … WHY do I still use Fouraquare?!?

This past couple of weeks much of the discussion has been around vacation ideas for the summer, which I alluded to on Thursday. Normally by this time of year we’d already have something booked and planned, but as the kids get older the considerations change as their schedules become less flexible. Last year, for example, with Danny going to Europe for most of July after several ‘prep days’ in East Stroudsburg, PA, our vacation ended up wrapped around that.

Also, this year we have one son finishing his sophomore year and the other completing his junior year … so college visits are a priority. Both boys have interest in media arts, and since Danny producted a documentary that took him to state finals, has been used as an example shown to the school board and has become an example used by the history department … film schools are of great interest, with a cool list of great schools found here.

Of course we can’t take a vacation that hits every college that might be interesting, so we identified a few places that we wanted to vacation that also have schools of interest.

Has to meet these criteria:
– Decent beach access: not necessarily ON the beach, but an easy drive
– Some sort of non-college activity to occupy most of the week
– At least one ‘high interest’ college
– At least one ‘activity of interest’ for each person
– Reasonably affordable

So here is what we are thinking!

New York Times Square

New York City

Of course, NYU and Columbia are great schools regardless, but they both have fantastic film and journalism schools. These are highly competitive and expensive schools that mesh a top-notch education with all the benefits (and distractions) of a big city. There are a ton of other great schools in the city as well as music, culinary and other great schools.

As I mentioned, we have never visited New York City as a family, and Danny has never been there at all. So getting to check out the sites at a more relaxed pace should be a blast. Beaches in New Jersey (and my brother) are close, and we will definitely not suffer a lack of things to do.

All of this a quick four hour drive from home, with some decent hotel options we have scoped out … this is the front-runner.


Boston / Cape Cod

OK, I’ll be honest – this is MY first choice, because I can never get enough of the area. We were there two years ago and there is really no need to go back, but … well, I just love it there and would love to return ‘home’ to Massachusetts someday. Boston University is one of the dozens of top notch schools there, and the media school has evolved with the times, noting:

“Instead of making students choose between film and TV, now all of the undergrads are film, TV and new media students with equal access to the full range of courses.”


Orlando Florida

Perhaps in support of Disney and the other surrounding parks needing loads of talented media people, central Florida has a great set of schools of various sizes, including University of Central Florida which has a great media program.

We have been to Disney with the boys a few times through the years and always had fun … there is so much to do, and now that the kids are older we can do things all over the place rather than just Disney World. Plus you can get to either coast pretty quickly.

Los Angeles Hollywood

Los Angeles / San Diego

With Hollywood being ‘movie/TV central’, it is not surprising that there are tons of great schools in the area. USC, UCLA and on and on – great universities with tons to offer. Just down the road a few hours is San Diego and even more great schools.

Then there are beaches, hills and valleys and endless sighseeing opportunities. I have been to San Diego, but none of us has visited LA … it would be pretty much awesome.

North Carolina or San Francisco

There are actually loads of other great media-centric schools in Connecticut, Chicago, the Pacific northwest, Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and so on … but two other places we would love to go are North Carolina and San Francisco.

North Carolina has huge education centers in Charlotte, Raleight-Durham, and Winston Salem, and some excellent beaches as well. There is plenty to do, and close proximity to get to Virginia and Washington DC if we wanted to do things that way.

The Bay Area is a place I visited regularly with Shipley/Rohm & Haas, and I miss going there. Between San Francisco and San Jose I was there close to 20 times through the years, and don’t remember a bad trip. The area is loaded with fantastic schools for any interest, and so many things to do – and friends to visit – that I know a week would end in a flash.

Any other thoughts? Never opposed to anyone pitching a school or location you think might be interesting!

Four OTHER Things

OK, so while I already did a ‘5 things’ on vacations … why not now turn the vacations into #1 and do four more?!? Hey – this is MY list and I’ll do what I want! 🙂

2. Stronger Support for ‘Big Bang’ Reported

Big news this week in the field of astronomical physics, as there was a report of a discovery that supports decades of theoretical and observational research into the origins of our universe. The report talks about the researchers involved, the development of the ‘cosmic inflation’ theory and so on.

These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background—a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.

Because the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.

One striking thing – these data were collected and analyzed for more than THREE YEARS before the report was issued. It is a reminder of the depth and complexity of research and analysis done in these cases … and at the risk of getting political, this should be used as a reminder to those who like to devalue the work ‘theory’ by making it equivalent to a ‘wild uninformed guess’.

3. Hiring Bias – Even Women More Like to Hire a Less Qualified Man

Here is the reality of hiring: all else being equal, the man gets the job. In fact, even if things are NOT equal, it is likely that the man gets the job, according to this article at INC. Check out these depressing details:

The study, conducted by business-school professors from Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago, asked male and female managers to recruit people to handle simple mathematical tasks. The applicants had equal skills, but managers of both genders were more likely to hire men.

The male candidates boasted about their abilities, while women downplayed their talents, but the managers didn’t compensate for the difference when making hiring decisions. When the managers were explicitly shown the women could perform the tasks just as well as the men, the result was still that men were 1.5 times more likely to be hired. Even worse, when managers hired a job applicant who performed worse on the test than a fellow candidate, two-thirds of the time the lesser candidate was a man.

There are really three main ways to deal with this: change your behavior, change your mind, or change your systems.

Changing behavior means teaching women to boast and possibly exaggerate their skills and accomplishments … which is not really a particularly positive goal. Changing your mind means realizing that there can be gender-based differences in responses based on how an individual was taught through the years.

Changing systems means addressing the reality that if this survey shows differences, then you can assume that the output of this bias exists throughout the organization. This means that the systems involved in recognizing talent and potential are likely biased as well. Un-biasing a system is difficult and will take years, but in the end will result in an organization that recognizes talent equally and provides a positive and productive workplace for all.

4. Productivity – Getting Stuff Done

Who doesn’t want to get more done, amiright?!? This week I came a cross a number of article focused on productivity, including this one on the differences between successful and unsuccessful people, a bunch of ways to get more stuff done, and even ways to NOTHING and be more productive! Here is my favorite quote, from the ‘Do Nothing’ article:

Do nothing when you’re angry. Some people think anger can focus emotions, but it doesn’t. It’s like focusing on a kaleidoscope. You’ll walk straight off a cliff. Anger is a roadmap off that cliff. You have to wait until it settles down and you get perspective. Time is the morphine drip that soothes the anger. Then you can act. Anger is just an outer reflection of inner fear. The fear might be correct, but the anger blurs it.

5. Strange Cat Behaviors Explained

We love our cats, as I mentioned on Thursday. But make no mistake … they are BIZARRE! OK, here is a great slideshow talking about some strange things cats do:

Brings You “Presents”It’s what you’ve always wanted: a dead rodent or insect at your feet. Behaviorists have many theories about why your kitty insists on doing this. As a kitten, her mother might have brought back dead prey. You might actually be encouraging her behavior by paying her more attention when she offers you “presents.” Your generous feline might share her prey to thank you for feeding her, or she might simply be sharing her successful hunt with you, acknowledging that you are a member of her “friends” group.

Our 13-year old ‘cancer kitty’ remains the scourge of the small mammal population in our area … she doesn’t just bring US presents, she brings them to the dogs as well! Maybe she watches them bark in frustration as they fail to catch the squirrels and birds (terriers are NOT stealthy!). We tried the ‘bell’ trick the article suggested, but he either gets tid of the bell or entire collar!

As for our poor twice-abused adopted Dolly … she has no idea how to ‘play’, but wants to. She is also a totally love – after 3 years she really just wants to spend time with us, and we give her run of the house when we can. But when the dogs are inside she lives in the (finished) basement. And when I have to go upstairs she will come towards me and bat me with her paw. At first she didn’t know what to do next, but now it is a game between us and she manages to keep me a bit longer by doing it.

What bizarre things do YOUR cats do?

Bonus: 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer

I always love The Oatmeal, for a great combination of humor and information. His running series is just incredible … and now there is one on beer. I will close with a part of his infographic, for the rest of it head here:

20 Things about Beer

So what cool stuff did you see or read this week?!?

Throwback Thursday: Disney Memories


Last weekend was the Disney Marathon and the ‘Dopey Challenge’ – 4 days, 4 races: 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full marathon! I read about it on a number of blogs from people who either ran or wished they had – especially Lauren at RunSaltRun who is plotting to get there for next year with her family to do the challenge.

All this Disney talk brought me back to the times we have gone there with the boys. The picture at the top is Lisa and the boys from 2005 – we were there over the 4th of July – it was great seeing the fireworks, but something else when we joined the half million OTHER people trying to get out of the park at once afterwards!

We have gone three times – May 2001, July 2005 and over Christmas 2007. Each one has a bunch of memories for a number of different reasons.

In 2005 we stayed at a time-share resort rental that was pretty close and as the kids were four years older we were able to do even more than before. It was a great time, and we actually enjoyed the resort quite a bit (up until the high-pressure sales pitch at the end!), walking around to the ice cream shop, using the pools and so on.

In 2007 we went with Lisa’s sister and her family, so there were eight of us for the week. It was fun but definitely added different dynamics than how we would have done things for just the four of us. Here is a picture from Downtown Disney:


It is interesting for me to look at that one – I had found out that my thyroid was dying, but it hadn’t hit rock bottom yet (and wouldn’t until I was in NY a month ahead of the family move). But I had been slowly gaining weight, and was probably about 50lbs heavier than I am now.

But for me Disney will always go back to our first family trip there in May 2001. They had just kicked off a more structured ‘Star Wars Weekends’ the year before, so we figured it would be a great time to go down – plus May travel was cheaper and less crowded.

Flying with kids can always be a challenge, but since we were doing this pre-9/11 things were much easier, quicker and smoother. I love this picture of Danny on the plane playing a game on an early Pocket PC from Casio (Cassiopeia E-125 to be specific) … I think the game was Mini Golf.

Sierra Exif JPEG

But one of the huge things from that trip to Disney was Star Wars Weekends, and in particular when they had the new event ‘Padawan Training’. We had no idea what it was about, so we hung around to see what happened and found out that kids got to participate. They were looking for kids between 5-12, so we figured Danny was close enough if he wanted to try.

He was interested, but didn’t want to raise his hand or push forward, so he hung back and let others get chosen. Then when the Jedi Master pointed somewhat in our general direction, Chris headed for the stage! Lisa was going to stop him, but I held her back – if they didn’t want him, we were close enough to just go grab him. But they brought him on stage – he had just turned 3 – and he got to fully participate! I love this picture … he is so cute and was so serious and engaged with the training!

EPSON DSC picture