Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trip to Florida, March 2010, Part 2

Nothing too special happened on Wednesday or Thursday, as Jonathan was studying for and taking the first half of his comps. But, in the past week I've had a few people ask me what "comps" were, so I wanted to take a quick moment to explain.

Comprehensive Examinations (comps) are taken as part of some graduate programs, both on the Master's and Doctoral levels. The setup and selection of these exams varies by program and school, but the concept is pretty much the same everywhere. Basically, they're based on a single subject (specificity varies), and last several hours (2-4, generally) each. Most are writing-based, and there are only a handful of questions... sometimes you answer all of them, other times you can pick-and-choose.

After this much explanation, a couple people have said "didn't you take those back in high school?" Well... yes and no. Jonathan and I were both part of the IB (International Baccalaureate) program, and we did take tests like that for 2-6 hours a day for ten days or so. They were much more general in nature than comps, and they were graded in other countries (and it took months to get results), not by the professors (whom you usually know) who write the tests. But essentially, it was choosing certain questions, having to answer other ones, and writing essay-answers for various topics for several hours a day. When I think about how hectic comps are for everyone, it makes me wonder how in the world we managed to get through IB exams before we even went to college!

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BK, Tori, and I got together for our typical evening of Olive Garden & Phase 10 (a card game) on Friday. Tori's boyfriend Josh joined us, which is good because switching the game from three people to four changes the gameplay we're accustomed to.

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Saturday had us in different places. Jonathan, Joe, and Ebad went camping at Kissimmee Prairie Reserve State Park (sound familiar? Joe took Bryan, DJ, and I there on an afternoon Joeventure last July). They made ribs and had some nice weather.

Meanwhile, Tori and I headed to Universal Studios in Orlando. I hadn't been to the park in about seven years (although it might have been six), unless you count Halloween Horror Nights, but since you don't go on the rides then and parts of the park are closed, I don't count that. Tori hadn't been in several years, either. Plus, with 3 Doors Down as the musical guest that night (during Universal's "Mardi Gras" celebration, there are certain nights that have concerts), it sounded like a great idea to us (remember, we love concerts).

There was some sort of national cheerleading competition going on, plus there were several high school bands there as well. This meant more people in the park (counting toward the maximum capacity), but less on the rides. And I can certainly say that worked in our favor!
We started our day off with Terminator 2: 3D. It's one of those big rooms where you sit in a chair, and a show goes on (CGI and live action), and you wear 3D glasses. It was okay. Then we went to the ET Adventure, which was pretty much how I remembered it - you ride a bicycle (not literally) in a cart of 8 and go through the woods (running from the police), then end up on ET's planet. It was hard to make out the names (you personalize your experience by entering your name at the beginning), but it's always a fun ride.

Then it was on to The Simpsons Ride. The line was kinda fun, because it's like walking through a funhouse. The ride itself is a re-done version of Back to the Future, where eight of you sit in a car and it moves to go along with what's happening on-screen. It was pretty fun, but it wouldn't be worth waiting an hour for (we only waited like fifteen minutes). After that it was over to Men In Black: Alien Attack. It's the same as the Buzz Lightyear ride if you've been on that. If you haven't, you're in a car of six and each person has an infrared gun to shoot aliens. You try to get as many points as you can. Tori and I went single-rider on this one (changed wait time from 35 minutes to less than 10), but she did much better than me. Her score was over 100k, while mine was just shy of 30k, LoL.I'm glad we decided to go on Jaws next, since it's the only ride you get really wet on, and it was still early in the day. It was okay... much shorter than either of us remembered, and certainly not worth a long wait (especially on a cold day). We surveyed our lunch options and went with Richter's Burgers, where I had a burger and Tori had a chicken sandwich. Nothing awesome, but it was good and filled us up for the rest of the day. We caught part of the Blues Brothers Show as we made out way to the Universal Horror Make-Up Show. It was funny, but not informative, as one would expect. Plus, the main reasons it was funny was because one of the volunteers wouldn't cooperate and another didn't speak English. Then we did Revenge of the Mummy. It was very different... picture Rock n Roller Coaster without the music, with a touch of Expedition Everest. In other words, it's in the dark (but not as tame as Space Mountain) the entire time, and there's a part where the tracks switch and you go backwards. This was our longest wait (almost 40 minutes), but we got front row (actually, we had front row the ENTIRE day, which is incredibly unusual), so it was pretty good.

Then, we went through the disappointment of Twister. For some reason, I remembered it being much cooler. In reality, you watch a short video of the making-of the film, then go into a large room to witness a semi-boring scene where a tornado damages a corner of a town. I dunno, I wouldn't recommend it unless it's hot out and you're bored.

We tried to do the Delancey Street Previews, but they weren't showing anything that day. So we went over and did Shrek 4-D, which was pretty fun. There's a long time where you stand in a room and wait, being entertained by the Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Gingerbread Man, and Lord Faarquard. The actual employee who was telling us about the ride, etc. was very inappropriate, so we think it was probably his last day or something. I did get to participate tho, since he asked someone to define what "flogging" was, and I raised my hand first, LoL. Anyway, the ride itself was pretty good, another setup like The Simpsons Ride. But, since Shrek rides a horse, the cart jiggles up and down rapidly as well, which was fun.

I should mention that we kept checking on the times for Disaster! but they were long and we didn't want to wait so we kept doing other things. We seriously walked by there like 6 times before actually getting in line, LoL. When we did get in line, I decided to check to see if there was an app for my phone that could see wait times. Turns out there was! This aided us a little bit, but it would have been helpful earlier in the day (I used Ride Hopper Lite if anyone's interested). The ride itself was strange... first an employee chose like 7 people to "be in the movie." Then we saw a wonderful hologram (I want to saw it was Christopher Lloyd, but the face is escaping me at the moment), then the volunteers taped their scenes (and a funny The Rock joke began). Then we were led to a fake subway train where we all reacted to stuff around us as "extras." Fires, earthquakes, flooding, etc. Last, as the train brought us back, we saw the video that was put together of everything (pretty funny).

We went and walked through the kids' park. We watched 15 minutes of the Animal Actors show, which was pretty standard animal tricks for the most part. We walked through Fievel's Playland and (the dry) part of Curious George Goes to Town before heading back to the front of the park and jaunting through Lucy - A Tribute, which was a small museum of Lucille Ball memorabilia. Then, we got in line for our last ride of the day: Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast. We should have read the description, since we were surprised when we saw other characters on the ride, like the Rugrats and Hey, Arnold. It was another The Simpsons Ride, essentially. But there was a part where they did the Chicken Dance, and the carts got really bumpy and uncomfortable, LoL.

We actually did (or attempted, like Delancey) every attraction in the park, with the exceptions of the Barney show, the Woody Woodpecker children's rollercoaster, and the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue. Oh, but we didn't do Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit... the vertical climb was a bit much, plus the wait was never less than like 90 minutes. (and convincing Tori to do the big rides is always a struggle... and I had nobody to help convince her, LoL.)

Then we saw the Mardi Gras parade (and witnessed greedy tourists who don't know parade give-away etiquette) and the 3 Doors Down concert. The concert was pretty good, which is attributed to both the band and Universal's setup for them. No opener, but the set was a little over an hour, so no disappointment. The filing out of the park was ridiculous, but getting out of the garage was pretty straightforward, so it could have been a lot worse.

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