Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Crazy Night In The Magic Kingdom

Last night's Monstrous Summer All-Nighter at the Magic Kingdom was, well, a big stress-ball of chaos. BUT, in the end, the most important thing - the Epbot pow-wow - was a staggering success, and that's really all that matters. :)

The trouble started right after John dropped me off at the Contemporary resort (so I could walk in to the park and avoid the ferry/monorail) and then circled back to park at the TTC. He discovered the entire lot was at capacity (YIKES) and closed. He'd have to drive all the way to Epcot, park there, and then take two different monorails to reach me - along with roughly three gazillion OTHER people.

Meanwhile, my plan to stay distracted by taking lots of pictures was foiled by a dead camera battery (right after I took this photo - grrrr) and the realization that the fresh batteries were still in the car with John. WHOOPSIE.

The resulting phone call with John was when I started breaking down a little. Knowing both he and the car were at least an hour away was playing havoc with my anxiety, since I always need the option of a quick escape to feel safe. I wanted to take a Xanax, but I'd also left my water bottle in the car, I was completely dry-mouthed due to nerves, the fireworks were going off, and there were about two thousand people between me and the nearest water fountain or drinks vendor. (If you're feeling on edge just reading that, then you know how I felt!) So I holed up in the forecourt of a little gift shop to the right of the train station - the only spot clear of people -  and paced in circles while I talked it over with John on the phone.

After several minutes of hand-wringing I told John I just couldn't manage it, and to come back and pick me up. I was devastated about missing the meetup, but just making that decision was a relief, so I walked back to the Contemporary already feeling better.

Then something awesome happened: When John arrived back at the Contemporary, just one hour after he'd dropped me off, all the cars were gone! He told the guard he was picking his wife up, and was waved through without a hitch. He actually arrived first, so he parked and walked up to meet me. We went inside to grab a quick meal and let me wind down, at which point we realized: hey, we're here, and the meetup is in less than an hour: let's go for it! With John by my side and the car within walking distance, I knew I could handle the crowds without a problem.

We power-walked from the resort all the way to Adventureland in less than 25 minutes, arriving at 11:55 on the nose. We were barely within site of the Terrace when someone said, "Are you Jen?" Next thing I knew, I was completely surrounded by readers, and - not gonna lie - the next two and a half hours are a complete blur of happiness.

John counted 20 readers around me in those first few minutes, so he headed to the counter and ordered - yup! - 20 Citrus Swirls. I later got the story from him: The cashier looked at John in disbelief, and then the manager came over to verify: "Twenty? Like, two-zero?" When they realized John was serious, the manager grinned, said, "Alright, then!" and got to work helping the other CM slowly fill cups. He also counted loudly with each: "ONE! TWO!" Ha! John then passed the Swirls back through the crowd, so even though I couldn't see him, soon everyone around me was being passed ice creams.

More and more people were arriving, though, if you can believe it - so in the end I think we had over 40(!!) readers there -  but not everyone wanted a Swirl, so it worked out fine.

We all gathered in the space by the Tiki Room exit, and I did my best to work my way around and talk to everyone, passing out pins - which I eventually ran out of - posing for a couple of photos, laughing a lot, and even signing one little girl's autograph book. (D'awwww.) There were several quieter types lurking on the edges of the crowd, but John was wonderful about helping draw them in and getting my attention so I wouldn't miss anyone.

I told John later that it felt like one big geek party, and it was easy to forget WHY everyone was there as we all chatted and carried on. There was a couple from London, a family from Kentucky, a pair of real live Disney artists, a few familiar faces from Dragon*Con, and another young girl (not the autograph one) who impulsively hugged me as they were leaving and just about made me melt. Some folks had just arrived to the park, like us, but plenty more had been there since 6AM, proving just how crazy Dizgeeks can be. (You know, in a good way.)

John and I said our final goodbyes at nearly 2:30AM, and all that standing and non-stop talking and laughing had taken its toll on both of us. Even now my throat is shredded; I've been more croaking than talking all day.

(Btw, I kicked myself later for not getting a group shot with the readers, but it didn't even occur to me until after they'd all gone. It would have been tough anyway, as jam-packed as we were in our little Tiki Room exit alcove!)

After that is when we discovered we'd left our tripod foot at home, meaning I couldn't attach the camera to the tripod, meaning I couldn't take all those lovely long-exposure night shots I'd been hoping for. A sad blow, to be sure, but it was hard to be TOO distraught after such a great meetup. In fact, we kept running into readers the rest of the night/morning, which was fun.

I should mention that this 24-hour party was much, MUCH more crowded than the last one, too, so even if I'd been able to use the tripod I wouldn't have gotten any crowd-free shots anyway. I'll probably have better luck during a late night trip during the off-season.

I still took some photos, though, so here are a few blurry shots of the rest of our night's wanderings:

The entrance to New Fantasyland, with the Seven Dwarf's mine coaster being built in the background.

The Tangled tower. (That whole new rest area is gorgeous, btw. Prettiest bathrooms EVAH.)

Probably my favorite shot of the night, straight off the camera.

We saw the cutest service dog (named Tinkerbell! Ah!) wearing light-up Mickey ears, but Tinkerbell wasn't terribly cooperative with having her picture taken:

You can just see the light-up part of her ears in the blurry pic.

Tons of folks were either wearing Monsters, Inc t-shirts and hats or their PJs, which added to the slumber-party vibe in the streets. Check out this awesome girl we spotted on Main Street:

We ended up in front of the castle around 4AM, where a DJ and several characters were hosting a street dance party:

Like I said, much more crowded than last time! Although by this hour the crowds were really nothing compared to earlier in the evening.

The colorful lighting and early morning haze were quite pretty on the castle:

 There was also a brilliant full moon, which made the cloudy sky look incredible:


You know, as hot as it is down here, Disney really should switch to being open all NIGHT during the summers. That would be soooo much better. [Said the evolving vampire-blogger...]

John and I admitted defeat at 5AM, a full hour short, but his back was aching and my feet were hurting and - egads, Sweetie, WE ARE OLD. When did that happen?!

Well, to end on a happy note, here's an orange castle:

A million thanks to all of you who were able to come out and make my crazy stress worthwhile, and to those of you on Twitter who sent encouraging notes when I was freaking out, and to all the rest of you who I know would have been there if you'd been able to. (When are we getting our Star Trek transporters, anyway?!)

I hope you're all having a great holiday weekend! Now I'm off to make a little hot tea for my throat. [WORTH IT.]

Thursday, May 23, 2013

24-Hour Disney Day Meetup

John and I have heard from quite a few of you going to the 24-hour Disney day tomorrow, so I'd love to get you all together for a little Epbot pow-wow, if you're up for it! I'm thinking we can meet up at the Sunshine Tree Terrace (aka the little counter-service spot next to the Flying Carpets, across from the Jungle Cruise) at midnight:

We can all get Citrus Swirls, sit for a while, shoot the breeze, quote Princess Bride at each other, you know - the works.

Now, I know a lot of you are exactly like me, meaning you're kind of shy about going up to total strangers and introducing yourself, but I don't expect there will be more than 10 or 20 of us, tops, so please come out if you can! I'll even bring Epbot and Vader-riding-a-pony buttons for ya, because I am SO not above bribery. :)

You can also keep track of me that night on Twitter, in case you're not able to make the meetup but still want to find us to say hi.

See some of you there - and for the rest of you, stay tuned for a photo post! I'm hoping to get more crowd-free shots ala last year's.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Can A Corset Cure Cramps?

I've debated writing this post for a little while now, but at this point I figure I've discussed everything from my OB-GYN visits to my bra size with you guys, so hey, why not?

[Note: Gentlemen, there is nothing in this post that speaks to your interests, unless of course your interests include a lady friend who suffers from menstrual cramps. You have been warned.]

So here's the deal: back when I last cosplayed as Lady Vadore, I was unfortunately right smack in the midst of my womanly miseries*. I've always struggled with severe cramps and PMS and all the joys that go with them, so you can imagine how I felt that morning when I crawled out of bed and contemplated the Dreaded Corset.

[*If you read that fast it looks like "womanly miniseries." Ha!]

I was already in pain, but I gritted my teeth, swallowed two Tylenol, and had John lace me in. (OOPH.) I did have him loosen it quite a bit, though.

Within minutes I was feeling much better, but of course I attributed that to the pain pills. 

"I feeeel happyyyy!"

That day I went about seven hours in costume, and I felt fantastic - no pain at all, even long after the Tylenol should have worn off. I was too distracted to think much of it, though, until we were packing up at the car to go home that evening. Since it's mighty uncomfortable to sit in a car that long laced in a tight corset, I swapped it out for a loose overshirt. 

Within approximately three minutes of removing the corset - perhaps sooner - it felt like a sledgehammer hit me right in the gut. I've never had such a sudden onset of menstrual pain in my life, as I literally went from feeling on top of the world to curling into a ball and sobbing in agony. 

Needless to say, this raised a few questions. Namely, does a corset stop cramps, and if so, how or why?

My internet research turned up lots of anecdotal evidence: plenty of ladies claiming corsets *do* stop or help cramps, but nothing more "official" or offering a medical explanation as to why. I also found a lot of links to scammy looking sites pimping something called a "premium beautiful corset" (yes, really) for menstrual pain. There was also a slightly less scammy-looking site selling a compression belt contraption for the same purpose, which seemed to support all the anecdotal evidence.

As to WHY a corset would relieve cramps, all I found were some dire-sounding warnings about corsets stopping menstrual bleeding all together, usually listed in articles bashing corsets as dangerous and unhealthy. On the other hand, there are just as many (if not more) sites defending regular corset-wear as perfectly healthy - assuming you wear them correctly, of course.

So, does compressing your uterus trigger it to stop shedding its lining, or does it alleviate the cramping for some other reason - maybe by just supporting the muscles/organs? Beats me. All I know is that it definitely works. 

How do I know? Well, for the last couple months I've been wearing a tight compression band on the days I start to cramp - and it really, really works, you guys. Happily you don't have to wear a corset, though, or even anything all that tight. All you need is one of these babies:

Those are underbust shapewear camisoles you can find almost anywhere - assuming you don't already have one in your closet - or you can order one off of Ebay for less than $7 with shipping. (I think I found mine at Ross for ten or twelve bucks.)

The one I had kept cutting into my underarms with those straps, so one day I got out the scissors and hacked 'em off. Now it's just a stretchy tube for my abdomen, and I tuck the top edge under my bra band to keep it in place. They also sell "slim belts," though, which are essentially the same thing:

This one is $9 with shipping on ebay. (Note: I know nothing about these sellers, so of course do your own comparison shopping.)

These shapewear pieces are snug but extremely stretchy, so odds are you'll forget you're even wearing them. And even though the very LAST thing you want to do when you're cramping is put on tight-fitting clothing, believe me when I say this will absolutely alleviate some or all of the pain*.
[*Someone just pointed out I sound a little snake-oil huckster-y here; sorry! I should say I *believe* it will help you, but of course everyone is different and there are no guarantees.]

In fact, I've cut down drastically on the amount of pain pills I need each month - last month I think I even skipped them entirely, if you can believe it - thanks to this compression thingy and one other trick I stumbled across online: Magnesium supplements. I take one 200 mg tablet of magnesium citrate the second I start to feel the pain coming on, and then another with each meal and when/if I take any Tylenol, and I could swear it actually prevents the cramps from getting worse. (It looks like there's plenty of evidence to support this, too; here's one from the University of Maryland, for example, or just google "magnesium menstrual cramps" for more.)

You guys might recall that the last time I mentioned my uterus I was gunning for a hysterectomy - solely due to the pain each month -  so believe me when I say this is a HUGE improvement. Fingers crossed it lasts.

Oh, and the only negative side effect to magnesium is that it can be a diuretic/laxative if you take too much of it - but that's actually kind of a good thing for a lot of us around that time, am I right? JUST SAYIN'. (I'm so glad we can have these chats, you guys.) Magnesium is cheap, too, so if nothing else you've got very little to lose by giving it a try!

As with everything concerning your health, though, always do your own research and/or talk to your doctor if you have questions. I can only tell you what's worked for me, and while I don't think either of these suggestions can harm you, again, please do your own research.

Speaking of which, I know there are (at least) several doctors who read Epbot, so if any of you would care to weigh in on this in the comments, I'd love to hear from you! Ditto for any of you regular corset-wearers out there. Let us glory in all our glorious womanhood, my lady friends, and freak out the men-folk with our talk of chocolate-cravings and heavy flows! WOOT WOOT!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Disney's Star Wars Weekends, 2013!

Star Wars Weekends just started out at Disney Hollywood Studios, so yesterday John and I braved the heat and crowds to go check it out!

Before we even got to the front gate I was chasing down these two sisters to get a photo:

(That's their parents smiling in the background.) I love that you're just as likely to see a girl toting a play sword or blaster as a tiara these days at the parks - or even all three together. ;)

And check out these girls' fabulous fascinators!

They even dressed to match!

We hung out in the gift shops for a while while we waited to meet up with Martha, a long-time reader from Canada. If you follow me on Twitter, then there's your explanation for all my wacky merchandise tweets:

Here's one I didn't post, though:

I actually love these Angry Birds foam balls, but they were like $15 each. YEESH. Ah, Disney pricing...

Once we met up with Martha, we moved on to the day's big attraction:


This momma and her babies were pacing back and forth on a raised planter:

She kept jumping down from the planter and looking up at the ducklings expectantly, but they were all, "What, you crazy?" Then the momma duck looked at ME, but I was too busy taking videos of her with my phone. Eventually a lady walked up, scooped the ducklings up, set them down by the mom, and herded them all across the path to the lake side. I was both mildly horrified and horribly jealous.

What's that? I'm supposed to be looking at Star Wars stuff? Oh. Ok. Here, have a Chipmunk Ewok:

The lines for photos with the characters were pretty crazy, as were the crowds jostling around, so I couldn't get the characters by themselves. Instead, enjoy these photos of random children alongside them. :D

This Darth Maul is the same guy every year, I believe, and he is incredibly intense - spot on perfect, whipping around into different poses like he can't even feel the 90 degree heat. So that girl's finger point and grin cracked. me. up.

(Did I mention it was like surface-of-the-sun hot? Why can't they host these things in February?)

Not long into the day I spotted a tweet from another reader named Jennifer at the park, and convinced her to come say hi. We ended up hanging out with her family and Martha for the next few hours, which was super fun.

Jennifer's daughter Emily was sporting a Jedi robe her dad Jeff had made (go, Dad!) and she was a real (storm?) trooper when it came to facing down the dreaded Tusken Raider photo op:

Whatever you do, don't look beside you.

This backlot area is where the characters definitely have the most fun, playing with the crowds and doing their best to freak people out.

Here's a shot of Emily's dad Jeff playing a game of mirror, mirror with the same Raider, who took it upon himself to stalk our group for a little ways:

Next he went after Jennifer, poor thing, while John looked on:

Such a Casanova.

I'm pretty sure these walk-around characters have been told to get in your face at every opportunity, because that seems to be their go-to tactic. It's either funny or terrifying, depending on your disposition, and I found having a camera in front of my face was both a shield and a target.

Here's Aurra Sing closing in on me:

She locked eyes on the camera and then slowly stalked off to the side:

Next I spotted my perennial favorite, Zam Wessel, walking by:

I caught her mid-stride giving me some serious side-eye.

I chased her down and asked for a photo of just her, which of course is like volunteering to be messed with. She let me snap one quick photo:

And then started closing in:

She got closer, and closer, until:


This photo isn't cropped, and I didn't use a zoom. In fact, her nose was practically touching my lens, something I didn't realize until I went to move and stumbled into her - and then realized everyone around was laughing. No complaints, though; these shots were my favorite to play with in Photoshop.

We wrapped things up at the Darth Mall, aka a Star Wars fan's shopping heaven. New this year is a 3D printing service that puts your head on a Storm Trooper's body:

It's about a hundred dollars plus shipping, and they ship it to you about two months later.

They also had Roxy the Rancor there for photos, which some of you may remember from MegaCon and Star Wars Celebration:

I guess the fans who created Roxy agreed to lend her to Disney for the event. Nice of them!

Donald seemed to be the stand-out character this year in merchandising, which was great for me; after classic Mickey, Donald is my favorite of the Fab Five:

Talk about the perfect set: Donald's butt frozen in Carbonite, and Donald as Boba Fett!

The art area is filled with fantastic original Star Wars and mash-up art:

The registers are overseen by Darth Donald:

And some fun Jawa set ups:

I managed to resist the siren call of most of the goodies, but I did cave on this deck of 3-D/lenticular playing cards:
Every card has a lenticular face - not just the face cards - and it comes in a metal tin. Not bad for $12! (And how appropriate that Jar Jar is the Joker...)

Here's a close-up of Vader's card:

We ended the day with the Hyperspace Hoopla, which is always a toe-tapping spectacle of goofy fun. People get in place for the show two to three hours ahead of time, though, so unless you're willing to wait that long you're not getting a great spot. I caught glimpses of it through a forest of trees and kids-on-shoulders, but I saw enough to still enjoy it. The show seems to be getting longer each year, too, since this one clocked in at over 35 minutes.

Here's a snippet from Inside the Magic that includes one of my favorite bits:

They used to play Robot Rock at our local skating rink when I was a kid, and I've loved it ever since - so that was a fun surprise. (And I love the controller DJ. Ha!) The only other bit that really made me hoot and holler, though, was the surprise finale - because I am just that much of a Dizgeek. :)

Head over to Inside the Magic to watch the entire show, or Ricky's also got it separated into clips if you just want to watch bits and pieces.

If you're in the area, definitely come check out the Weekends if you can! They run for the next three weeks, and there are plenty of shows and events (like the parade!) that we didn't catch this time.

Oh, and this coming Friday is also the 24-hour Disney Day at the Magic Kingdom, so if you're going to that and want to meet up, let me know! I've heard from two or three people already, so it might be fun to have a little Epbot party - maybe we can all grab a Citrus Swirl together!