Friday, July 31, 2015

The Majesty of our Nation's Capital

As mentioned earlier, Angie and I went to Washington D.C. so that he should advocate for disability rights.  I was mostly just along for the ride.

Luckily, due to flight schedules we got in a day early and had some time to check out some of the sights.  So of course we head towards the White House and the National Mall area to check out the monuments.  I am not a huge fan of pictures.  I try to live more in the moment and build memories than build a library of pictures that I won't really look at again...plus I just cannot smile naturally in pictures, I tend to look more like a socially awkward alien trying to fit into my human skin shell (which is totally not the case).  

But since I was there I thought I would grab a few snapshots with my phone of the various locations of interest for when people ask (even though you can google much BETTER images than I would even be able to take).  


Here I present, my tour of photo tour Washington DC*.

The White House

First we start with the White House.  It was a little strange turning the corner and bam! there is the White House.  It was closer to the street and had other buildings closer to it than I would have guessed.  It would be strange working in a building directly across a road from the White House.  On TV and movies, it always seems to be set apart from the rest of the city...but nope, it is right there in the center.  It was a lot more accessible than I would have thought.  Yes, there are fences and security and such, but it really makes it clear why people get upset when there is even the smallest security breach...because it is right there (and the sniper with the 50 cal on the roof!).  It was a little surreal to see people playing roller hockey on the pedestrian street part of Pennsylvania Avenue - "Hey Randal, where do you want to play hockey today?"  "I don't know, the White House?"


The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument was up next.  It was neat, but just an obelisk, so what is there to say really?  It looked nice with all the repairs done and the scaffolding removed.  I am grateful that the whole forced perspective thing hasn't caught on with this like is has with the Leaning Tower of Pisa...I think seeing all the people taking photos where they are acting like they are holding up the tower would make me irrationally angry.  Luckily, I did see a bunch of kids pretending that the Washington Monument is their penis.

The Washington Monument - angle 2

The last picture had more obstructions than I would have liked.  From this angle, I was able to get a nice clean shot of the Washington Monument.  Admittedly, seeing it by itself without the trees, light poles, people, etc...it did seem pretty impressive as the sun reflected off the white stone.  I was trying to get a cool lens flare with this shot.

WWII Memorial - Iowa Pillar

The World War II Memorial was very interesting.  Here is Iowa's pillar.  Angie was looking forward to this shot...evidently it is one that she has wanted (and wasn't able to get on her previous trips).


WWII Memorial - My God It's Full of Stars

This is a shot of the over 4,000 stars on the memorial.  Each star commemorating 100 Americans who gave their lives in WWII.  It is a lot of stars, your mind can't even comprehend the number of people who died...and this was just the American military personnel.  And this number pales in comparison to many other countries' civilian and military deaths.  It is really inconceivable.  I felt very reflective on the times and their sacrifice.

The Vietnam Memorial is very powerful.


The Vietnam Memorial also produces a very somber feeling.  Although the number of dead is something 15% the total American lives as World War II, it is very powerful to see all the names etched into black granite.  Since I was looking at actual names (instead of a gold star representing 100 people...which my struggles to translate into a real number), it really did drive home the waste of war (at least for me).


The Lincoln Memorial

Finally we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and I was able to get into some shade to see my screen...yep, I have like 200 pictures of my head and hands.  Dang it...Oh well, I can always find images on the internet.  We (well, probably I mostly), had a good laugh about it atop the Lincoln Memorial.  It is too bad that as I was seeing Lincoln all I could think about was Robo-Lincoln from the Revenge From Mars pinball machine.  I totally wanted to see Lincoln stand up and kick some Martian ass.

After this, I did get a few "normal" pictures...looking down the National Mall, an actual shot of the Washington Monument, the Supreme Court, the Capitol building...but now those seem kind of boring compared to the story of accidentally taking pictures of my face all day.
National Mall - with clouds rolling in.


I did capture this disturbing image while walking around the city.

Shakespeare's Nipples

What is up with this costume?  I can't believe that is in anyway historically accurate and really did not entice me to go see a production (or did it?).  I can appreciate nipple framing clothing, but it was a little odd on 15 foot banners.  Seriously, this outfit just seems impractical....but now I kind of want one - I mean my awesome hipster t-shirt design could show through while my arms remain warm!  And...you know...I could show off my nipples.









*It was a bright day.  I couldn't see my screen (I like to keep the brightness low to preserve battery life and just be more low-key). Evidently, the reverse-view camera was on instead of the normal camera.  Hilarity ensues when I finally look at the pictures.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Roll on Capitol Hill


Last month, I was privileged to accompany Angie to Washington DC for the 2015 Roll on Capitol Hill event.  This would be my first trip to DC and also my first trip flying with Angie...hooray adventure time!  The pictures turned out poorly*


Angie, Jamie, and Jenn rolling on Capitol Hill

Roll on Capitol Hill is an event sponsored by the United Spinal Association allowing people with spinal cord injuries or disabilities to meet with their governmental representatives and advocate for disability rights and disability-helpful legislation.  I found the experience very interesting.  We were able to meet with Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley.  Both of whom, I liked more than I thought I would.  I am sure some of that is "being a politician" and being able to tell people what they want to hear, but I don't know that all of it was...I think there was some sincere interest, concern, and understanding.  It kills me to say that Joni Ernst actually seemed like a good person, so I discarded all my pig testicle and bread sack jokes un-muttered.  Understanding and sincerity does not guarantee support; but hopefully it will leave the legislatures with some positive impressions and influence future support.  We met with the staffers of other legislators who were not able to meet in person and dropped off some information for others whom we could not set up meetings.  So hopefully a productive trip.





The Senate & House office buildings are very similar many normal office buildings with a few exceptions.  Not surprisingly, there is the security...mainly you have to go through a metal detector and have your belongings x-rayed.  If you've ever flown or had to go to your local courthouse, you get the idea.  I was a little surprised at how easy it actually was.  Even though if you were going from building to building and back for meetings; it was a little tiring.  The other thing that stood out was that every office door was flanked by flags.  Lest anyone doubt their patriotism everyone had a United States flag and usually their State flag on the other.  However, some offices had more flags - flags for an armed service branch they may have served in, the POW/MIA flag, flags for various other local organizations that they Senators & Representatives supported...but as we walked from appointment to appointment, I only saw one Gadsden flag being flown (the "Don't Tread On Me" flag).  Thank you Steve King for living up to my preconceived notions (at least partially)...stay classy.   Steve's staff was nice and he did already support one of he bills we were advocating for...so I guess that counteracts some of my preconceived notions.



































*more on that later

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Childhood Dreams

Monday was a long day.  Little sleep for a few days before and a busy, hectic day at work;
I was hoping for an easy day at my part time arcade job.  I picked up my brother, Kelly, planning that we could play a good deal of relaxing pinball after performing some quick repairs and cleaning.

That plan didn't work...thanks to some trickier that planned technical issues and some cross-threaded bolts (whoever did this, I hate you); my hope of getting repairs completed in about an hour were dashed.  It turned into a 5+ hour ordeal...and left me with some homework.  Thankfully, Kelly was a big help and we did end up playing a few games of pinball (sorry about making you work so much!).  We trudged out of the arcade a bit after 11pm and started to head for home...drained.

I was feeling pretty worn out...but then a distant image appeared on the horizon (OK across the parking lot).  Is that...is that...I think that is....is it, it is...The NUTmobile!  Obviously, I had to get closer.  It's after 11pm, no meeting Mr Peanut for me.  I would have to settle for a picture.


What an awesome way to end the night?  It would have been great to meet Mr Peanut, but I am sure he had many important nut-related activities the next day and I wouldn't want to interrupt his sleep.  He is almost 100 years old now.  I am not sure about the human year to peanut year ratio is...but I am guessing that 99 is on the more mature side for a peanut.  


Feeling better about the night, we turn the corner...and Oh My God!





The Oscar Mayer WienerMobile is parked in the same hotel...cleverly hidden behind this tree.  I have loved the Wienermobile since I was a kid.  Who hasn't?  I have never got to see it in person, something has always come up, ruining every opportunity for me to visit the grand frankfurter tabernacle. I was pretty excited, but made myself stay in the car to temper my enthusiasm.  If not, I was liable to A) run through the hotel knocking on every door looking for the Hotdoggers in order to get a whistle, B) climb the WienerMobile and ride that thing like I am Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove. 
Wooo-Hooo!


I was a little sad, not to get out and enjoy the wienermobile to its fullest, but not being arrested for disrupting many a hotel guests or defacing a sausage shaped automobile; reminded me that it was all for the best. I guess the WeinerMobile and I will remain like two ships that pass in the night.  Longfellow knows my pain.  

What amazing event has drawn these two titans into a meeting?  I am unsure.  I can't find anything about anything in Des Moines...google searches show a lot of press about a visit last year, but nothing about this year.  I guess they needed to rest on their trek, spreading joy across the country...so it was truly serendipity that I saw them.


Which WienerMobile did I have the honor of (almost) meeting?  "OH I WISH."  The best one (in my opinion).  What a great night.  One down, five to go.  Until we meet again, #WeinerMobile, I will see you in my dreams.


OH I WISH - the flagship of the fleet





Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lies

Hallmark, why do you have to turn this store into a house of lies?  I am not fluent in "bird talk" but I am pretty sure Woodstock is NOT saying the same thing in both of these cards.  Looking at the tweet hashes the phrasing is not the same at all.  Also am I supposed to believe that the same sentence can be said in 9 or 50 characters?  I suppose you could argue that the longer phrase is because it is all capitalized...but I don't see Woodstock being a bird that would yell "HOPE YOU GET WELL SOON".  I get the feeling that this is like when someone gets what they think are badass Chinese characters tattooed on themselves, but in reality it does not mean what they think it means.  The writers are being lazy and not taking time to be consistent and just write whatever they want...because who is going to notice?

I noticed.  The cards were 3 feet apart.  Now I am not sure that I trust you...maybe I am getting a card that I think says "Hope you get well soon" but what it really says is "Stop being a cry baby.  Oh boo-hoo, you have ebola."  Do I take the risk and send that card to my sick grandma?  Maybe, just maybe she is fluent in bird talk.

Hallmark, please stop turning Woodstock into a liar.




Hope you get well soon.

Stop being a cry baby.  Oh boo-hoo, you have ebola.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Consequences

Even though it was all for fun, writing this blog has really been somewhat of a life-fulfilling activity (there have been reasons that I have not been writing in the past couple years and that will addressed at a later point).  Writing this blog over the years has had a lot of great consequences.  I've met interesting people, discovered great music, shared and received fascinating ideas, and found a lot of humor in the world.  

However, the best consequence was re-connecting Angie.
It all started with a little blog post congratulating Angie for becoming Miss Wheelchair Iowa 2009.  I had met Angie through a friend nearly 10 years earlier, at a time before she was involved in an automobile accident and becoming a quadriplegic. Around the time of the accident, our mutual friend moved and we lost touch...until the blog post.  We started hanging out again to catch up and then more often as friends and after about a year we started dating.  It's been a wild few years since then full of ups and downs - we became engaged on Dec 24th 2013. 

One Ring to rule them all...

I thought we would take is slow, maybe get married in a year or two but Angie was all "Nope, let's do this."  We were married on September 6th, 2014.  It was an exceedingly busy 9 months of planning and I am mightily thankful that Angie actually handled most of the planning and organizing.  Angie did an incredible job and created a wedding that reflected us and preferences. It wasn't your typical wedding (we are anything but typical) but it was an amazing day.

We decided to do a theme wedding...I know, I know some of those are horrible, but we decided it would be fun to have a 1920's Hollywood themed wedding.  The basis for this being that we are both big fans of both theater and movies, plus you know the outfits back then were just elegant and fun.  That was our base point for planning and the ideas developed from there.  Sticking with the theme, I had hoped to get married at the old Billy Joe's Picture Show location since I was always such a fan but unfortunately our guest list (correction - Angie's guest list) made that space a little too tight.  So after much searching we decided on the Iowa Events Center.  IEC used to be called Veterans Auditorium and I had seen many great concerts there like Kiss, Motley Crue, and Ozzy (and yes it is where Ozzy bit the head off a bat); how could I have a problem with a historic institution like that?  I think it is cool.

Of course, Hollywood themed we had to set the mood...so we started brainstorming.  We let our imaginations and desires run a little wild (sorry, this is probably going to just be a bunch of pictures).

We needed people to know where they were going.  We needed a lighted marquee.  This was created by my dad.  He did a great job, especially because I just said - "Will you make us a lighted marquee?"  We didn't know how it would be hung or where it would go, but it ended up being incredible.  Unfortunately, this picture doesn't do the lights justice.

Our names in lights

Red carpet and red curtains were a must and of course our bridesmaids and groomsmen would be seating in movie theater seats.  Gold stanchions and velvet ropes to keep the crowd in line.

The walk down the red carpet

We thought it would be funny to have us photoshopped into various famous movie posters like we have been in all these movies.  It was a fun photo shoot and our photographer (Black Label Studios) did a great job of making the posters.  The frames came from the Re-Store in Des Moines - only $10 each!

Grease, Phantom of the Opera, The Princess Bride, Singin' in the Rain, The Wedding Singer.

Top Gun - close up


Refreshments - movie popcorn and candy...what else did you expect?  Movie film, popcorn, and the velvet ropes and stanchions were loaned to us by the Merle Hay Cinema (I miss you guys already).  Movie reels were loaned to use by Fleur Cinema.  Both are places we visit regularly.

Popcorn and candy waiting for the guests.


Our star ready for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  We also pressed our hands into "cement" ala Grauman/Mann's Chinese Theater for our unity ceremony (probably shouldn't trust us with fire).  Unfortunately that didn't turn out as great as I would have liked, just too much rushing on the day of the wedding to get it done right.

Our star

We decided we were famous enough that we needed life-size* cardboard cut-outs of us.  OK, I thought of the idea because I really didn't want to pose for a lot of pictures and figured this way that we could still let everyone get pictures with "us."  It worked like a charm.
*not quite life-size - mine is a little shorter, Angie's is a little taller to make for more balanced photos.

Feeling a little flat

Real vs Doppelganger -
Is it strange that facebook recognized and automatically tagged the cutouts instead of us?

My grand entrance song was the theme to the Muppet Show.  "It's time to play the music, It's time to light the lights..."  Angie did the more traditional wedding march, but we left to Red Sweater by The Aquabats.  Seriously, could she have been more open to strange ideas?

Center Stage  - Fur stole and tails and top hat.

We both love the movie, The Princess Bride, so we thought it was only fitting that we convince our minister to re-enact that scene at the beginning of the wedding.  Luckily, The Princess Bride is also one of our minister's favorite movies, so it didn't take much convincing (Thanks David!).  Not everyone got it...but to us, it was hilarious.

Wuv, twue wuv.

As our minister went to change into his normal clothes, our wedding had a short interruption by Elvis who serenaded us with some "All Shook Up."  This was a surprise that I did not know about until the rehearsal the day before.  Why Elvis?  I had been joking with Angie for years that if I ever got married, I was going to Vegas and getting married by Elvis.  So this was an inside joke that no one else would understand.

Ladies and Gentleman...Elvis!

The Feature Presentation

The fun and surprises continued with the reception.  I don't care for cake, of course, I would happily eat it on my wedding if Angie wanted a cake...but she agreed that we should go with Rice Krispie treats (one of my favorites).  Angie had a Rice Krispie cake made with Princess Leia and Han Solo toppers.  We also had a large selection of Rice Krispie treat flavors including: original, scotcheroo, peanut butter and bacon (the Elvis), and Fruit Pebble.  Instead of a full sit down meal, we decided to have a lot of appetizers of our favorite foods such as mini-corn dogs and white cheddar cheese curds (it had to be white cheddar...I am picky like that).  IEC did a great job with all the food and I wish I had been able to eat more.
mmmmm....

"I love you."  "I know."


Angie then surprised me with a Groom's Cake.  It was styled after a pinball machine with a hockey theme.  I had originally wanted to set up my pinball machines so everyone could play during the reception.  However that idea got thrown out early due to some demands from the IEC. So this cake was a really cool way of Angie bringing in more of my favorite things.  I am not even sure what a groom's cake is, but it was really thoughtful of Angie...and also made of rice krispie (with marshmallows and candy for various buttons and lights).

Delicious, delicious pinball


Our good friend, Tim AKA DJ NSFW, spun records for the first half of the reception.  Then our favorite local band, No Good Deed,  played a set for the second half.   I would recommend either or both for all your Des Moines area music needs.  I wish I had more time to rock out.

No Good Deed

It was a great day...and we passed the line of paparazzi as we left triumphantly.




Here are just a couple photos from the day that I thought turned out well.

On the new pedestrian bridge in downtown DM

A quiet moment before all the craziness

Thank you Angie for all the hard work and effort that you put into our wedding.  I feel like a total slacker for not doing nearly as much and for not having the creative surprises for you that you had planned for me.  I love you and think that you are wonderful.  I am glad that having you in my life has been the best consequence (by far) of this blog.  

Thank you to everyone who was able to help us celebrate or wished us well,  Special thinks to everyone who was in our wedding or helped along the way, it would not have been the same without you.  We appreciate you all.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Great Ideas...update.

About 5.5 years ago, I posted about an idea about a baby beer smuggler, basically based on the fake boobs or fake beer belly flasks that you fill with beer and sneak into a sporting event or concert.



You can read about it in detail here.



Well, I would like to proudly announce that someone has stolen this idea and is working to make it a reality (I have nothing to do with this).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Please Help Us!

Hi Everyone,

Many of you know about my love for pinball.  Many of you also know that my fiancĂ©e, Angie, who is the president of the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Iowa and  who loves helping others.  We have the unique opportunity to combine both of these passions.  We hope to purchase a wheelchair accessible pinball machine for the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Iowa.  We plan to take the machine to various locations and organizations allowing people with disabilities the chance to access life and enjoy pinball.  Some places we plan on working with - local chapters of Easter Seals and Paralyzed Veterans of America, local hospitals and rehab units, nursing homes and in-patient facilities.

This is a rare machine - only 15 machines were converted for use by people with limb impairments and other disabilities...and that was over 20 years ago, it is not known how many still exist (my guess would be very few).  This machine allows rooms for wheelchairs to fit underneath, is on wheels so that it can be brought to a person's bed, has large buttons on the front of the cabinet for easier pushing, has a remote set of buttons so that the person can sit them on their lap, table or whatever works best, and has a straw-style sip/puff adaptor for those with severe limb impairment.

But we aren't buying this machine for ourselves, we hope to take to many locations and functions across the state so that all people can enjoy pinball.  You can learn more and donate through our indiegogo fundraiser page.  A plaque will be made and attached to the machine with all donors’ names.  We need to raise $2500 for the machine and shipping.


Any extra money will be donated to the Spinal Cord Injury Association to help others through different projects.

Thank you for any help that you can offer, also if you could please share this with others, it would be appreciated.

Sincerely,
Michael 




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thank You - It Was A Great Effort


Thank you everyone who voted and sent their thoughts and well wishes to Angie in the Wheelchair Van contest.  We appreciate all your efforts and every single vote meant a great deal to us.

Unfortunately, we came up a little short.  Angie ended the contest with 9,458…which was around the top 6.5% of voting results.  She needed to be in the top 5% to make it to the semi-final round.

It is a little sad, but I am sure that the vans will be awarded to some great and deserving people.  We are lucky that we have a van to be able to chauffer Angie around in for the time.  We will continue to work saving for the hand-controls that she needs to be able to drive and hope that we can find a decent van to have them installed in once that time comes (the hand control equipment is very expensive and can’t be moved from one vehicle to another, so you don’t want to have it installed on a vehicle that will not last).  We are trying to work out some future fundraisers to help with the cost.

I wanted to let everyone know how the contest turned out, but mostly I want to sincerely thank all of you who had voted and shown your support.  Thank you so much!  Even though we didn’t make it we feel very blessed by you all.

With sincere and heartfelt gratitude – THANK YOU!

Michael & Angie

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Angie Update and a Favor


Hi everyone,

I've had a lot of people asking how Angie is doing.  She is doing well…although we there is still no resolution with the insurance company in sight (it has been 10 months…and could be up to another 4 years).  Angie was just given an award last week at the state capitol for “Advocate of the Year” for the help and awareness that she has provided for people with disabilities.

Can you please do me a favor?  As part of Mobility Awareness Month (May) a group of national dealers of adapted vehicles will be giving away three ramp vans to disabled individuals in need who are “local heroes.”  To be considered as a semi-finalist, she needs to receive the top 5% of votes.  It is a national contest and right now there are

Please vote at the following website:


You will need to fill out your first & last name, email address, and complete a simple math problem (as a human check).  You can vote once a day from each IP address (computer location), so please vote from work, home, and your mobile devices.  It will be a lot of work but, I think if we can get her in the top 5%, she has a good chance at winning.

You can also get an extra vote by answering a question.  Each computer location can vote once a day through May 10th…please vote and please share with others (email, facebook, etc..).


There is a short list of some of Angie accomplishments and the picture is from her award ceremony last week.




If you want more information on anything.  Please let me know.

Thank you so much for all your thoughts and help.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Comedians - Don't Do This

We have a new comedy club in Des Moines called Jorker’s. I had a couple weekends without definite plans, so I thought I might check it out…but then I checked their schedule. You want to know the fastest way to make me not want to watch you as a comedian? Make this face:



 All I can think is that there is going to be a lot of angry yelling. I don’t know, maybe that is not what you do but that is the first impression that I get from your photo…and I had more than enough of yelling comedians in the late 80s/early 90s with the likes of Sam Kinison, Gilbert Gottfried, and Bobcat Goldthwait.

 You might be really funny…but I can guarantee that my desire not to listen to someone yelling all night trumps your humor. The funny thing is that I know that at these guys are not really screamers…but I initial response to these photos was so repellent that I can’t overcome my desire to not go to these shows.  My reaction probably would not have been nearly as visceral if there had only been one over-weight, bald, bearded man making this face but two was too many.

I know, I know - don't judge a book by its cover...but I read a lot and I am really good at judging books by their covers.  I am even better at judging albums by there covers.  If you don't take the time to pay attention to the cover details, chances are that the innards are going to be equally mediocre.  That doesn't mean that it has to be an amazing cover; but a well thought out, well executed, and consistent design offers a pretty darn good insight into what lies inside.  Comedians - please do not make this face in your publicity shot, it will make me not want to see you...even though I know that it doesn't match your style.