Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Warrington Farm, Queenstown, MD


Warrington Farm is kind of a rip off in my opinion. $2 to pet a couple animals (cows, pigs, and horses) maybe isn't so bad, but $30 for a pumpkin is, especially when down the road at Blade Orchard you can get pumpkins just as large for $6. Besides the price, Warrington doesn't even grow their own pumpkins. They buy them at Councell Farms in Cordova, just like anyone else can, then they sell them at a higher price to make a profit. Definitely a not-nice move. But they're right off the highway and are in a convenient location, so if you want convenience and don't care about prices, feel free to stop by.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL

Back in August, I visited the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. This museum is all about the Ringling Bro's Circus. Being as I went on a field trip, I did not get much time to explore but the little I could I found interesting. I wish it had been an actual circus, but the miniature displays that were actually quite large were very impressive. It was like being a giant looking down upon a circus or like God watching from above - the figurines moved and everything! The museum however was only one part of the place however. Outside there was a garden and there were several other buildings still left for me to explore by the time I had to leave. The giftshop and Starbucks on site made the heat more bareable, but took valueable time away that I would have liked to spent in another building or looking more at the cool trees outside, or maybe even playing on the playground I saw. Because I went on a field trip, I'm not sure the price, but I'm sure it would have been well worth the money if I was able to see everything and might even be worth a trip back to finish looking.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Homeless in Hollywood Book Review

*****Spoiler Alert*****
Homeless in Hollywood by Jim Alexander Rice is an account of the author’s single-minded determination to break in to the business as an actor/scriptwriter. Over a two to three year period, the main character (author) lives hand-to-mouth on a Hollywood filming studio, dodging guards while trying to gain employment and a movie deal. It is inspiring and a bit scary at times. As much as I would like to be a best-selling writer, I have not felt the passion for it as the author so obviously has.

The story was easy to read and follow. The danger and suspense of the constant threat of discovery brings an emotional draw to the tale. At times the extreme differences between the people who worked at or were stars of the Hollywood studios compared with the number of homeless people “living” just beyond its walls seems surreal. Why is there such a disparity? The author’s account feels like a fairy tale when he crashes studio parties and rubs elbows with the rich and famous; and a horror story when he’s sleeping on a catwalk with only a pilfered donut to eat for the week.

I read the book through to a point just past the middle, but then I skipped to the end. The reason for this is that about at that point, the story loses momentum. The detailed description of the day-to-day struggle became a bit repetitious and tedious. I was not getting any new information about the situation and so I did skip the parts between about page 140 and when the main character (author) is actually apprehended for trespassing.

There is not a classic "happy ending" for the main character.  However, insights and reflections on being homeless and having an unsurpassed passion for a dream/goal give the reader much to consider in the end.

Rating 3.5/4

UPDATE: Homeless in Hollywood is non-fiction. It is the true account of one man's struggle and sacrifice to achieve his dream/goal of becoming an actor and screenwriter. I read Homeless in Hollywood word for word up to about page 140. As the the text began to repeat itself, I skipped ahead to a point where the narrative no longer took place on the movie studio lot and where the author suffered the repercussions of trespassing on the lot for 3+ years. During the author's time on the lot, there were many instances where gaining food was scarce. I did not mean to infer that he only ate ONE donut a week. There were many times he had plenty to eat while attending parties or from food set up for actors and extras during filming of shows, etc.  The point I was trying to convey was that food was scarce on many occasions especially when there weren't any productions going on. Period. Please chalk that up to me being in a hurry and my not wanting to give away too much information about the events of the book.

When I use the word surreal in my review, it is that at one particular studio party that the author crashes, he drinks heavily and the description of the event is like a pleasant dream (fairy tale). I apologize to my readers if this image I had in my head did not come through in my review. And incidentally, by "horror story" I meant that I was disheartened by the thought of someone having to sleep out of doors and wondering if they'll make it through the night. That thought is just horrible to me and I pray for those homeless and those losing their home especially in the recent housing crisis.

It was a very descriptive narrative that at places draws you into the author's life. However, there are many places that the moment-by-moment description pops the reader right out of the book. There is often too much detail. I have read biographies that have read like reports and biographies that read like prime-time TV drama. But part of the art of writing is to engage the reader, even if it is based on fact. Parts of the book did not engage me so I gave it 3.5 out of 5. Please forgive my typo. Since I could not give it 3.5, I gave it a 3 because being engaged in someone's narrative is important for enjoyment. And ratings are just that, an opinion on the enjoyment level.

I hope this clears up any confusion. I welcome criticism and discussion.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty
Liberty IslandNew York CityNY 10004

First tip: Book your trip well in advance if you want to go up to the pedestal and the crown. You must be at least 4 feet tall in order to go to the crown. There are no elevators to the crown, just hundreds of steps.

I booked this trip online. It was only about $18/adult. This price includes access to the pedestal if there are enough tickets for it on the day you want. The park service only gives out a certain number per day. Book early. I believe the crown access is $4 more. If you don't get pedestal or crown access the price is the same just to walk around the island and Lady Liberty.

There is one elevator that is run by the ranger so there is a long wait. If you're healthy, you can head up the hundred or so steps to the pedestal. Once there, the access to the outside is about three feet of space all around. You have to squeeze by people to walk around the entire statue. If you have crown tickets, you have to walk up a winding staircase of another hundred or so steps. We only went to the pedestal because my son was not tall enough.

The rangers were really helpful and everything ran smoothly. We had our tickets scanned and we boarded a ferry. The rule of the ferry is to get as many people as possible onto it at one time. It has an upper deck and lower deck. There was a place onboard to buy snacks and gifts.

Once we were on the island, there were shops and places to eat. There is a locker available for $2 I believe, to store book bags and such. You are not allowed to take anything up to the statue except a camera and your wallet maybe. Be sure to ask.

The museum is on the ground level and is very interesting. You can get headphones in almost any language for a self guided audio tour. There are scale models of the statues face and one foot so you can get an idea on how large she really is.

The ferry runs on a regular schedule so you can also take it to Ellis Island where immigrants entered the US. It has a museum. We did not get off the ferry at Ellis Island because we ran out of time.

There is parking near the ferry pick up on the New York side and one on the New Jersey side, however, I recommend public transportation. Driving in New York is not pretty.

It was a unique experience and I recommend going.

Rating 5/5

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park
2 West StreetNew York City,NY 10004 (Financial District)  

This was the first time we had been to New York. We were going to the Statute of Liberty so we decided to splurge a bit and stay in Manhattan. The Ritz Carlton near Battery Park was the perfect location. We were within walking distance to the Statue of Liberty ferry, the 911 Memorial and Wall Street. We visited the Bull on Broadway Street and the American Indian Museum (which is free as part of the Smithsonian).

The hotel staff were very helpful and pleasant. I was impressed that they remembered our names every time we came through the lobby. Everything was clean and nicely decorated. When we arrived, they had welcome cookies and milk for our children. I thought that was a nice touch. 

The room was spacious and had a view of the street and nearby buildings instead of the river. But we didn't mind. It did have a mini bar but you have to request for it to be unlocked. We did not need it. There was turn down service and a room safe.

We did try the hotel restaurant, but did not care for the food too much. The children's pizza looked better than the duck we tried. The sauces were a bit too oily for our taste. There was no place to store any food or beverages brought back to the room.

The hotel is pretty easy to find using GPS. There is valet parking or you can try to find another parking garage nearby, but then you have to walk back. The valet parking is in addition to the hotel rate and came to about $70 per night. If you have to take your car out for any reason, you'll be charged additional time on your stay. If you just need to get something out of your car, be sure to let them know that so they won't start the time over. That was the only thing about valet parking we didn't like was that we did not have easy access to our car throughout our stay. It takes about 20 minutes for the staff to retrieve your vehicle.

We got a good rate on the days we booked using a government discount. We booked over the telephone with no problem.

It was a nice stay for a one time splurge. It is not really a family type hotel, but they try to accommodate for children in small ways.

Rating 4/5

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

6th and Independence Ave., SWWashington DCDC 20560 (National Mall)

First tip: Go early in the morning.

This was an amazing museum. Anything that you could think of relating to air and space was there. From the very beginnings of the thought of flight to looking out beyond our solar system. There is so much to see and discover. There are two floors and 10 or more separate sections of exhibits. There are airplanes suspended from the ceilings. There are satellites and rockets that had at one time actually been in use. There are many interactive exhibits and so much information that we could not see or read everything. There is a two-floor gift shop as well to purchase child-sized space suits, toy airplanes, science games, T-shirts, hats, postcards, books, etc.

It is a Smithsonian museum so it is open free to the public, but they do accept donations. It was a wonderful visit. If you see anything in Washington DC, this is one of the places to go.

Rating 5/5