So long without an update, and with so much to cover, I don’t quite where to start. Well, I might as well begin with the first of August. Having gone so long without a vacation, and having just endured weeks of sweltering heat, the only possible involved immersing myself in water for an indefinite length of time: let there be water parks.

Leading up to the first, Jen and I had researched dozens of possible scenarios in the Wisconsin Dells, finally deciding on Chula Vista thanks to a last-minute price special. We arrived at around 2pm, and even though checkin wasn’t until 4pm, they let us register and we unpacked, ready to test out the resort’s water park. Though thunderheads loomed above, the hot and muggy air spurned us to ignore them, and it was good.

Four hours later, I had ridden slides of several descriptions, climbed countless stairs, and basically ran Jen into the ground. While she rested, I continued inflicting punishment from choppy catching pools, nausea inducing tube rides, bumpy mat races, and sheer drops on my poor unfortunate body. After all that, food became my primary motivator.

The resort luckily also contained multiple bars and restaurants, including an all-you-can-eat buffet stocked with crab legs. Let me reiterate this: a buffet stocked with crab legs. With my legendary appetite present, and having just expended a vast amount of energy, this was a mistake. I went up for food three times, and ate at least a dozen succulent appendages of innocent crustaceans. Sadly, I could only eat so much, thus it was back to the water park with us! We still had two hours before it closed, and I made use of each second.

The next day, we wanted more water, but we also wanted to see what else The Dells had to offer. Ultimately we took an hour tour over land and sea on the Original Wisconsin Ducks, and bought some fudge from Swiss Made Fudge. After a few weeks of slowly depleting my reserve of peanut butter chocolate fudge swirl and peanut butter fudge, I have to admit the quality is superb.

After our sightseeing, it was back to the water park. I wanted to exploit its availability while possible. This time, we had dinner in the cafe embedded within the indoor water park, so as to maximize our drenchings. All told, we were there for another six hours, and left a mere half hour before the park was closed. After two days and ten hours of climbing stairs and buffeting myself with hard slides and shocking clashes into water, I was sore and tired, but also refreshed.

The next day, there was one last thing to be done: the obligatory cheese run. We selected a factory that had pamphlets in the Dells, even though it was about twenty miles out of our way; we had the rest of the day to explore, and didn’t want to leave quite yet. Carr Valley Cheese is many things, but an impressively large operation it is not. We drove up to what looked liked a small shack with an attached store, which immediately prompted Jen to immortalize it through photography. We had hoped to catch them while making the cheese, but all the hot weather meant less milk, and that they had finished for the day shortly before we arrived. Fresh curds however, were still being sold, and we each bought a bag or two for immediate consumption. They were moist, squeaky, delicious, and I’m almost out of them.

The next weekend sent us back into Wisconsin, this time to Milwaukee for a beer cruise. A wine tasting was also discussed, but I was not enthusiastic about either option, and Ryan and John weren’t especially enamored with the wine, so ultimately we went to a brewpub that started our boat-trip to other breweries along the river. I didn’t especially enjoy any of the beer, even though everyone says I managed to pick least bitter samples every time. I don’t know if it’s my tongue or not, but any good flavor of each beer was always harshly overshadowed by the bitterness. It was still an interesting experience, and I have to thank Kim and John for suggesting it nonetheless.

Last week, Mitsuwa held their annual Japanese Festival to honor Chicago, something pointed out by the Japanese Anime People of Chicago as a possible group activity. I jumped at the excuse to return to Mitsuwa, and spent about seven hours there, wandering the store, sampling the food, and enjoying the Taiko drums. A few interesting observations I had while wandering around:

  • They were selling Ramune at the festival for only a dollar per bottle, a steep discount based on what the store charged for a case.
  • Newtype magazine, a major anime publication which started selling here only a few years ago, is available in Japan for 550 yen, less than five dollars USD. The newsstand price is twelve dollars in the US.
  • Likewise manga collections are printed on a regular basis in phonebook sized magazines which use low quality paper, but also contain hundreds of pages of content. These are supposedly released on a weekly basis; apparently artists draw quickly in Japan.
  • Okonomiyaki is very easy to eat using chopsticks, something I didn’t expect, considering its shallow similarity to pizza or a pancake.
  • There was a drawing for three free round-trip tickets to Japan among other prizes, which I obviously entered. A great majority of the winners were Japanese, making me wonder at their possible motivation.

I eventually made it back home, having bought nothing but food and drink while enjoying the festival. The only thing I left with, was a renewed desire to learn Japanese. I’ll see what my schedule can allow.

Coincidentally Ryan Jones had just returned from Japan, and happened to be passing through the area in his return to Valparaiso. While we didn’t have our usual DDR festivities, Jen reluctantly joined us for an early Friday screening of Snakes on a (motherfucking) Plane, which was as Ryan put it, “Chock full of awesome.” Ryan noted that Japan had a distinct lack of pizza, so we took him to Giordano’s for a famous deep dish. We left to a rather sudden torrential downpour, and had to change clothes after finally returning to my apartment. After a few hours of catching up, and owning me at Mario Kart DS, it was officially impossible to fit more awesome into the day, so we went to bed.

Ryan, a native of the Quad Cities, was also ignorant of Chipotle, so we hopped on the El, and gave him a taste of yet more awesome, of which he heartily approved. Sadly, he wanted to beat the registration rush at Valparaiso, so we’ll have to have our DDR festivities at a later date. Jen has church in the morning, so she left as well, leaving me to my own devices, and of course we all know what that means: DDR.

I haven’t played for a couple weeks, waiting patiently for my apartment managers to finally replace my damn window blinds after having installed new windows. The promised two weeks have passed, which is unsurprising based on past history with these incompetent boobs, so I gave up. Yes, with my front room facing a major street in Chicago, I played ITG uncaring of any onlookers. I played for almost two hours, and used the opportunity to wear my heart monitor to gauge how much DDR affects my system. Previous forays using only my finger to check my pulse gave me an estimate of 180 bpm while I played. Using the monitor, I saw this was pretty much accurate. Including the stops between songs, my total average was 158.

What gave me pause was my maximum recorded heart rate: 205. Normally maximum rate is approximated by subtracting your age from 220. That would put me at 192 as an estimated maximum. Apparently I have the heart of a 15-year-old. Remembering my resting rate is 50, I have a rather shocking range considering my accompanying heart conditions. Though still worried about my general future health, I no longer doubt the current capabilities of my heart for workload adaptation. Hopefully my heart will remain this strong for years to come.

Until Tomorrow

A Book Approaches: Action?