Sunday, December 30, 2007

December Moments

December promise you have unto me... December whispers of treachery... December clouds are now covering me... December songs no longer I sing... "December" by Collective Soul

No reason for the song lyrics, just thought it would fit being December and all. Don't know of any tunes for January, or that have January in them... since I havent blogged for real in a while, I thought I would just throw out some randomness to end the year.

Sitting here at the Campbell's home, the parents of the lovely Steph Leann, having eaten all weekend, whether it be ham or turkey, or strawberry pretzel casserole, or green bean casserole, or sweet potato cassorole or whatever, probably gaining about four pounds... such is Christmas.

Currently, Alabama is barely holding on against Colorado in the Indepen... excuse me, the Petro Sun Independence Bowl. You have to think that the announcers get so irritated now that they can't just say "Independence Bowl", because I'm sure its in the contract that Petro Sun gets a mention everytime the bowl is said aloud.

Of course, I guess its better than being a commentator of The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. I wish I could make that up.

Its important to remember, though, that we can never have a college playoff in Division I... um, the Football Bowl Subdivision... because we must protect the integrity of the bowl system, like the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, or the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl or the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl... or my favorite, the Brut Sun Bowl. I will now go punch myself in the face.


I just heard the announcer say "You know, you hear people clamoring for a playoff in the college game, but today in the NFL, they dealt with 'do we sit starters?' and 'do we play hard or rest our guys?', plus there were several games today that were throwaway games... do we really want this in college football?"

The answer? Absolutely. There is no reason why you can't have a playoff bracket in college, and that guy should be kicked in the nads just for saying such a stupid argument. We know its about money, and honestly, the only reason that the playoff isn't being considered is the PAC 10 thinks their Rose Bowl is so special, they don't want to disrupt the tradition. And thats stupid too. Absolutely stupid. I'll stop before I get angry.


My nephew Benjamin got Transformers for Christmas. I remember when I was younger, 6 or 7 or 8, and I got a few Transformers for Christmas, and they had like, maybe four or five motions. You can roll the car, and as you're in motion, do the quick five movements and you can keep going with the Transformer, your war against those pesky Decepticons continues.

You think its easy going from an ambulance to this? As I was doing it, four pieces fell off. No, I'm not kidding.

Now? It has an instruction sheet that looks like a floor plan, and it plays out like an algebriac formula. I've tried to transform three of these things this weekend, and was successful only once. I imagine you keep rolling with your ambulance, and suddenly, the action stops for twenty minutes while you figure out how to make him a robot. You need more than better instructions, you need a sedative and a room.

Some of my favorite Christmas specials include "The Grinch that Stole Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and of course, the "A Charlie Brown Christmas", which truly is not only the best Christmas special, but by far the best Charlie Brown special.

Not only did CBS hate it originally, one of the execs actually said "You can't read the Bible on network TV!" For some fun reading material, here's the full story.


Here's a list of Fifty Nerdy Things to Do Before You Die. Let's see... 48, 42 and 7 is all I got. Though I could have done #31 while at Downtown Disney. I'm serious. Next time, I'm doing it.


My Christmas haul this year? I got the latest in the Complete Peanuts series, which I am excited about. I have probably mentioned this before, but its a book series which is printing, in chronological order, every Peanuts strip Charles Schulz ever drew. Each book contains 2 years, starting with 1955-56. I think there is supposed to be around 27 or 28 books in the series, with one coming out in the spring and the fall of every year. I've managed to get them from the beginning, and I'll pick up the new one in April when it comes out.

Also obtained, Transformers on dvd, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix on dvd, some iTunes money, a great A Christmas Story ornament from Steph, a series that I think I'd like to start collecting every year, and Stephen King's "It", in hardcover. They don't make it in trade paperback, so I got the big monster book.


In the last week, I've been able to see "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", "I Am Legend" and "No Country for Old Men"

"I Am Legend" is good. Its not great, but its good. Will Smith does a great job of carrying the film, a la Tom Hanks in "Castaway", and its in a film that not many could carry. What gets me is the zombie things. I don't know what else could have been done, but when it goes from a creepy, isolation film to a zombie film, it loses something. The book, written by Richard Matheson, is supposed to be far superior, and reading the plot line on Wikipedia, it sounds like it. But still, it is a good film.

"National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" was also not great, but just good. However, I wanted this movie to be better. It is, at its heart, a re-hash of the first film, and suffers from the Jurassic Park complex. Let me explain... Jurassic Park, like the first National Treasure, was original, with lots of "wow" and "that was awesome!" moments. The concept was original, the plot was entertaining, and its one you really could just jump into at any time. When Jurassic Park 2 came out, it wasn't as good. It was like, "Okay, you've shown me dinosaurs, so give me something else", only to be given more dinosaurs.

Anytime your movie is just "eh", you can throw in a hot chick and make it better. Of course, she's no Amy Adams, my nominee for the Hottest Chick of 2007 Not Named Stephanie or Ashley Judd.

With "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", you think "okay, you've shown me innovative clues and historical plotlines, now give me something else", only to be given more clues and historical plotlines. Diane Kruger does add to it, mostly because she's smokin' hot, and the appearance of Ed Harris is kind of cool too. (For a really good Nic Cage/Ed Harris duo, check out "The Rock") However, the more I think about NT:BoS, the more I don't know that I'll like it if I watch it again. Unlike...

"No Country for Old Men", which was absolutely amazing. Featuring Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, it is, on the surface, a drug-deal-gone-wrong chase movie. But at its heart, its interesting, its fascinating, and its rough. Javier Bardem is a creep on the level of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, not just killing, but killing based on principal. Truly, the star of the movie is Tommy Lee Jones. He's an old school sheriff, and the entire movie, you can tell it just pains him to know what the world is coming to, even though the movie is set in the early 80s. I'd like to see it again, just to catch anything I missed. Is it great? I think so, but you need to call it. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair.


So, remember KITT? Because the owner was murdered, you can now buy the original car to help satisfy his debts. That's almost creepy.


Starbucks tends to get busy around this time of year. Our store's manager, Meredith, left two weeks ago for 12 weeks of maternity leave, leaving me the keys and the reins to the whole shebang. Right during Christmas... but hey, bring it on. I can handle it.

Of course, it would help if our customers were smarter sometimes. I mean, if its Sunday, and Christmas Day is Tuesday, please don't get upset if you come in and we don't have gift card holders. This year, the little holder that you put the card in is a cute, red little mitten. But when you load up almost $18,000 in gift cards in a week, like we did, you tend to run out. Its really not my fault if you wait until the last minute to get one, so please don't get mad at me. Be creative. It doesn't destroy the pleasure of the gift card if you don't put it in a little red mitten.


Had a lady come to the drive thru, one that comes through a lot. She's a little odd. Okay, a lot odd, but still...

Anyway, she pulls up to the window, parks her car, gets out and rambles on about how her window is broken. She then pulls out almost her whole purse onto the drive thru plane to find the $3.48 to pay for her drink, not to mention during a rush.

She gets her beverage, she rolls away, we roll our eyes, and the next lady pulls up. I hand her her drink, and say "Sorry about that wait. The customer before you was taking her time", and the lady looks at me and says "Oh my gosh... I was watching her from behind here in the line, and that lady is freakin' crazy!!"


Of course, I'll take crazy people over customers who... order an iced green tea, and ask for it to be blended. In the blender. Have you ever blended ice water? The same thing. You have to dip it out with a frakkin' spoon. And typically, the lady orders it during our busiest times.

Another lady likes to order a venti iced latte... and have it blended. We just make the drink, then toss it in the blender. Not as annoying as the green iced tea blended, but still... its annoying.

Then again, I really can't stand people who work the system to save 20 cents. Like, ordering a grande americano, in a venti cup, and please just fill the rest up with milk. Um... thats not a grande americano. That's a 3 shot venti americano with 1/4 milk. But, to save 20 cents, you're going to order incorrectly. Cheapo.

The worst are what we call ghetto lattes. That's when you order three or four shots over ice, but ask for the cup to be filled up with ice. Then you take your drink to the condiment bar, and use our milk we set out for coffee, empty the container to fill up your cup with milk, and get a venti iced americano for the price of a triple espresso. This is wrong, people. Don't do it. This is called cheating. I'm going to get fired one day for calling people on it. Kinda irritates me.

Speaking of "breaking out of prison", if it worked for Andy Dufresne....


For some light reading, here's an analysis of what went wrong with Howard the Duck. I know you were wondering, and for Mikey Nipp, it has lots of pictures.


It's the end of the year, and of course, there are tons of lists out there... the best of 2007, and the worst of 2007, covering books, movies, music, theater, websites, people, sports, teams, whatever, so on and so forth. Coming up in January of 2007... the THIRD annual Coolest Things About the Year list. That's right, I've been doing it for three years now. Amongst contenders to make this 2007 list include: Paula Maddox, The Purple Onion, PhilharMagic, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix movie, Rush Limbaugh's smackdown on Sen. Harry Reid, Colbie Caillat, Grey's Anatomy, Nikki Brown and even more.

Working on it now.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Disney Vacation, Q to U

My Disney Vacation, A to E
My Disney Vacation, F to L
My Disney Vacation, M to P

Q is for Queue Lines
Sometimes, all you can do is stand in line, Fast Pass or no. Cause they don't make Fast Passes for every ride, you don't have Fast Passes for characters (see B for Beast), and, well, like any theme park, you are in a forced community for a period of time ranging from 15 minutes to over a hour. The longer you wait, the more you get to know those around you.

Typically, at most theme parks, be it Six Flags or Alabama Adventures, you make jokes about how long the wait is, or what condition the rides are in, or how the day is going in the park. At Disney, you open up much more. You talk about where you're from. You talk about how long you've been here. You talk about things you've done, things you've seen, and give pointers to other people.

It was in a queue line that I learned about the pin books at Guest Relations (see P for Pin Trading), it was in a queue line that we passed on wisdom about some of the events and happenings, it was a in queue line (for Beast, no less) that we met a lovely couple who was taking their young daughter to Disney World for the first time... and on the Peter Pan ride, she lost her digital camera, which contained hundreds of pictures, including the one of her kid's face when she entered the Magic Kingdom for the first time. Poor woman. We saw her the next day at MGM, and she said she'd given up hope for the most part.

R is for Rides
My favorite rides, in no particular order...
Mickey's PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom)... a 3D show that sees Donald putting on Mickey's Fantasia hat. Suddenly, the magic goes awry, as Donald is catapulted into different Disney moments, including Ariel's grotto, Aladdin and Jasmine's magic carpet ride, and Simba's "Just Can't Wait to Be King" animal parade. I thought this was so freakin' fun, and ended up on it twice.

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PhilharMagic is nothing but sheer 3D fun

Everest (Animal Kingdom)... we've covered this one already
The Tower of Terror (MGM)... the whole atmosphere is part of what makes this great. Everything from the line, to the lobby, to the elevator to the ride itself... even Cast Members get into the act. And instead of dropping just once, twice or three times, the ride dropped FIVE times. We thought it was anomoly, but the second time we rode it, it did it again. Awesome.
Mission: Space. (Epcot)... this ride rocks my world. Its a centerfuge, and any ride that not only provides vomit bags on the ride, but has cots laid out as you're exiting to lay down on is a ride that I want to be on.
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (TomorrowLand)... Who doesn't love the Buzz ride? You get it, you fire at aliens, you rack up points, its all brightly colored, its a hoot. Steph and I have ridden it about five times over two trips. I've beaten her once. Its a terrible thing.
Some of Steph's favorite rides? Pretty much the same, thought she does love Festival of the Lion King (MGM), and Peter Pan's Flight (Magic Kingdom).

And, of course, we both loved...

S is for Soarin'
We'd heard about this ride all over the place, from queue lines to websites to idle Disney chatter... we had to go on Soarin'. So, on Wednesday, the family headed to the parks for Epcot day, our bus driver informed us (which was kind of hit and miss with the bus drivers... we met some that talked and gave good park info the whole time, we met others who didn't say a word other than 'thankyouforusingdisneytransportationpleasegatheryourbelongings andchildrenandwatch...", usually just like that) that Soarin' was currently the most popular ride in Epcot, and that we needed to get Fast Passes early. Upon hearing that, we made our plan to do just that--get Fast Passes for Soarin', whatever that ride was. I honestly didn't have a clue what the ride was all about, only that it was based on a ride hugely popular in California.

The ride queue is just packed, completely. Fast Passes are for an hour or so later, but the ride currently has only a 15 or 20 minute wait--probably because its 8 in the morning, and the part has been open for about 2 minutes. Located in The Lands, it's around the corner from Living Off the Land, (which I refused to go on, for fear that they would end up saying something about erosion and man-made global warming, and it would ruin my day), we all filed into the long hallway, and quick enough, we were in the lobby part of the ride, where you get ready to "board".

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The Lovely Steph Leann, right before we went Soarin'

We were told to make sure we got in the front row, so when I asked the Cast Member for that spot for our group of 8, we stepped aside, waited another five minutes, and then went into the ride. As I walked in, the path was between seats, three rows on each side, all facing a huge IMAX-like screen. We walked to the front row, and strapped in. I couldn't even see the top of the screen without craning my neck painfully. It was a big, blue screen, one that you'd love to watch football on.

The room darkened, the canopy came down slightly, and suddenly, without warning, we were lifted high into the air. Remember, this is in a big dome like room, and I have no clue how high we are. The screen came alive, and all of a sudden, its like we're hang-gliding. We're soaring over panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, over the ocean, over orange groves (to which you could smell citrus), through the woods (to which you could smell pine), and the seats are slightly moving. You truly feel like you are flying.

The music is set perfectly, and its easy to get lost to the point where you are lifting your feet up everytime you fly over a low branch, or duck quickly when the guy on the golf coarse "below" hits a shot that flies right by you. The ride lasted about three minutes, but its one that you don't want to end. It's the perfect ride to go on first, as it makes your day. It just sets you up to be happy... magical even. And in the land of the Magic Kingdom, isn't that the point?

T is for Tyler
When I'm writing my final blog at age 88, or at least dictating it to my great-great granddaughter Glory, I'll probably consider Tyler Campbell to be on my list as one of the 100 Coolest Things About Dave's Life. He's just a cool guy.

Tyler comes into town on Wednesday night, and hangs with the family on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, he and Papa Ron are headed to Universal Studios theme park, and to Universal Islands of Adventure, but while he's in the Magic Kingdom, he's having a ball. Whats fun about Tyler is that he's not "too cool to ride the kiddy rides", and he was actually pretty giddy about riding Peter Pan's flight and It's a Small World.

Even after a day at Universal, he commented, "It makes you appreciate Disney." We got several pictures with Tyler and characters, and it was fun to hang with him during dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern. Minnie Mouse loved her some Tyler that night.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was when we rode Big Thunder Railroad. Steph and I were in the front, with Tyler and nephew Benjamin right behind us. I held up my camera, faced it back, and snapped about 15 pictures. And really only one turned out... but its this one:

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...of which I'm very proud of.

U is for Unlimited Refills
The first day at the All Star Movies Resort food court, we had breakfast. And during breakfast, we used one of our Disney Dining Plan meals, a counter service. And with that counter service, we got a breakfast entree, and two beverages, like a chocolate milk for now and a water for later. Or, you could get two waters for later... if you splurged on The Cup.

For $13.49, you could purchase this 20 ounce handled mug, and you'd get free refills for... well, I say for your visit, but I just thought, who's to say I can't take the cup back when we go again in 2008? I figured with regular prices it would take 12 refills to make the cup worth it. With Disney prices, it would take about 7. I refilled 11 times that week.

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My new mug

Remember, we're leaving early (where I got at least 5 or 6 refills heading out), and coming in really late (where I only got a few as we walked back in--I can't drink Sprite right before bed), so I didn't get all the refills... though I possibly could have. When the Lovely Steph Leann and I had dinner at The Polynesian Resort on Saturday night, I discovered they were selling the same cups. I love this stupid cup. It's kinda ugly, its clunky, but besides the essentials (money, camera, pins), it was truly the only thing I carried with me all week.

Finally... the end of Disney A to Z... coming soon

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Disney Vacation, M to P

My Disney Vacation, A to F
My Disney Vacation, G to L

M is for Mater
As in, Tow Mater, and Lightnin McQueen. We saw they were taking character pictures on Monday, our first day in Disney-MGM Studios. The line was long, but we thought, "Hey, get in line, maybe we'll get lucky". Unfortunately, there was a Cast Member at the end of the line, telling us they closed the line... and we didn't even see Mater or Lightnin'.

So, when we went back on Saturday to MGM, we planned our day around the heroes from Cars. We saw on the Times Guide, the little slip of paper updated daily to tell you when shows will be performed, where characters will be at what time, and any other fun events around the parks, that Cars would be on the Streets of America around 330ish, so we showed up around 245 to find a few people already there. The PhotoPass people (the park photographers that take your picture in front of various Disney monuments, ie the castle, Spaceship: Earth, other scenic locales, and hand you a PhotoPass card that allows you to go online and view and buy your pics) were there taking pictures of the San Francisco backdrop.

We had our picture taken, then helped form the Cars line with three or four other families. By 320, ten minutes before the Cars appeared, the line was around the corner, and barriers had been put up to prevent people from just hopping/skipping the line and the line was probably closed. The Cast Members were great, as they were like Nazis in keeping the line in order. They informed the audience that anyone could come up to the barriers to take pictures, but only those in line could go closer, and get with the characters.

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And then, we heard the roar of the engines as Lightnin' McQueen and Mater appeared, rolling slowly around the corner. Steph and I were like little kids, giggling at the sight of the two, and marveling at how cool they really looked. And they looked cool. Naturally, they didn't have the mobility and movement that animation lends them, but their eyes moved back and forth, and Mater's engine rocked back and forth. It was absolutely cool.

The other fun thing to watch was how people were walking up randomly, and even trying to merge into the opening of the barriers, where people who had waited patiently for 45 minutes were going to get in to get pictures. One guy walked up, kid next to him, and hollered back to someone, "Hey, those Cars cars are here! Come on!", and then he actually tried to step in front of me. I simply said, "Hey man, the line is right here, and starts waaaay back." He turned around, frowned at me, and stepped back.

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So, finally, we got up and go to get our pictures. Add them to the collection of cool photographs we have from the week.

N is for No Sleep
That's the truth. In an average week, I probably get... I dunno, 45 hours of sleep. I figure an average of 6 hours per night, maybe one night I only get 4 1/2, another night I sleep late and get 8 or 9, but I figure 42 to 45 hours. This week, I think I got about 30.

O is for Overeating
Holy crap, there was so much food. When you go on your weeklong Disney vacation, you'll want to do the Disney Dining Plan. It gives you a certain amount of "counter service" (walk up, order food, get it and sit down), "snack" (usually yogurt, fruit, ice cream, something you can eat while you go) and "table service" (a sit down meal, typically with a server) meals. As a rule, I've found that the character meals are table services.

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The Campbell clan after finishing Thanksgiving at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom

My favorite meals include:
**The Cinderella Storybook Dinner at the Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare Restaurant, starring a very toothy Cinderella, Prince Charming and Lady Tremaine. Buffet style, it featured a fantastic prime rib, and Steph Leann's much heralded strawberry soup.

**Planet Hollywood, in Downtown Disney. Good stuff. We ate their our first night in the area, and I had a big, fat mushroom & swiss cheese burger.
**The Yak & Yeti, in Animal Kingdom, which you'll read about later.
**And my favorite, Le Cellier, in EPCOT's Canada Showcase, which you've already read about

P is for Pin Trading
Oh, how we love the pins. Here's the story... Disney has always had pins for sale and trade. In DisneyLand, in California, they started trading them as a hobby, but when it hit Walt Disney World in Orlando, it took off full force.

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Our pin board, after the trip. I would say our collection was probably 70% overturned.

You typically have to start by obtaining a lanyard and some pins for trade, usually by buying them. Ours was given to us as part of our honeymoon package in 2004. You wear the lanyards, and when you see other people with pins on, wearing the lanyards gives you the right to ask about their pins. If you want, you can offer a trade. Perhaps they are trying to complete a set of pins that you happen to have one of, one that you'll know you'll never get a set of, but they have a great Goofy pin that you like. Offer the trade. Sometimes they'll take it, sometimes they won't.

Cast members wear two types of lanyards. The first, a blue lanyard, means that you can trade for whatever they have, provided they don't already have the one you are trading. This is an excellent way to pick up rare pins, pins for sets and such. The second, a green lanyard, means that they only trade with kids. However, sometimes you'll find a Cast Member who will trade no matter what... as long as you are nice about it. Sometimes not, though. I found a great Frozone pin that was on a green lanyard, and she wouldn't trade.

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The "Topiary" pins Stephanie was collecting. She got the entire collection this week.

A great little story.... we were just outside of Buzz Lightyear, and a Cast Member had a green lanyard, with a "safety pin". The Safety Pin Series is a 12 or 13 pin set featuring Timon and Pumbaa, doing the safety rules, like "keep your paws behind the yellow line" and "don't sit on the rail" and such. Anyway, this guy had one that Steph Leann, who has been collecting them since 2004, didn't have. I ask the guy if he would be willing to trade with a "kid at heart", and he said it was only for kids. Now, my other option is to ask Madeleine, 10, to come in and trade for it, though that seems kinda low. I figure I'm just going to tell Steph about it, and let her figure it out.

Ruth, Steph's mom, announces very loudly, "Well, why don't you get Madeleine to come in and get it?!?" I sigh, and the Cast Member perks up, suddenly on alert. I walk outside where Madeleine and some of the family is. I don't know if I told her, or Ruth told her or whatever, but Madeleine disappears, and a few minutes later, the Cast Member comes out with the Safety Pin, and a couple of 1 Million Dreams Tinkerbell Pins, asking me if I could give this to "the little girl who came in looking for the pin." Then he gives me this look of disgust, like I'm the scum of the Earth, for a pin that I didn't want, Steph gets the pin, Madeleine gets the special Tinkerbell pin and I get an angry Cast Member. Them's the breaks.

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Somehow, I managed to get Tinkerbell pins, and somehow, I managed to find them cool. And yes, I'm totally straight. Everyone, including Cast Members, asked me about the one in the upper left corner, cause its hard to find.

Some pin trading tips... its okay to buy pin sets to break up and trade. Steph Leann and I did that several times. However, pay attention to what's on lanyards. The "baby mickey" pins were all the rage in sets, and I bought one of those sets, only to find myself in a situation where I wanted a pin from a Cast Member, but he had all the "baby mickey" pins I had, so I had to give him another one.

Also, in each park, go to Guest Relations and ask for the Pin Book. They don't advertise it, but it's a big book behind the counter featuring pins that sometimes are hard to find. You are allowed to trade up to 2 pins per person.

"Hidden Mickey's" are the new thing. "Cast Lanyard Pins" pins are pins you can't buy, given only to Cast Members for trading. The story goes that people were complaining because it was hard to find Cast Lanyard Pins, which is stupid because The Lovely Steph Leann and I both have tons of them, so a year or two ago, they released Hidden Mickey pins, to help people find Cast Exclusives. You can buy a few Hidden Mickey's, but its only one pin in a set, like the Monorail Hidden Mickey Pin--you can purchase one. You have to find the other 7.

Personally, I could care less about Hidden Mickey's. I like Hercules pins, Incredible pins and somehow, I've managed to collect a bunch of Tinkerbell pins.

Its can be an expensive hobby, but its tons of fun. In every picture you'll see of The Lovely Steph Leann and I, you'll see our lanyards, and from one picture to the next, our pins change.

Coming Soon... S is for Soarin', U is for Unlimited Refills... and Why Disney is Better than Six Flags