Aviously

Because, aviously…

We all love our money. And nothing says money like: Regulation.

Okay, but seriously. The Federal Reserve is a nationwide banking system in place who’s goals include stabilizing market prices and moderating long-term interest rates (thanks Wikipedia).

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is one of twelve regional banks, and their responsibilities include helping to formulate the nationals monetary policy and provide services for cash, check, and e-payment processing.

And on top of all of that, they are also nice enough to have a free-admission money museum.

The Museum has a daily presentation that shows off the functions of The Fed, and also has a question and answer session, to let you find out all the little details that go into our money.

Other activities and exhibits include:

  • The story and history of the US Dollar, which has the evolution of our currency
  • Tricks and tips on how to spot a counterfeit bill
  • Take a picture with a suitcase full of one million dollars in $20s
  • A cube/pallet of one dollar bills, also equalling a million dollars
  • A souvenir bag of shredded money, which if you spend a lot of time trying to put back together, you won’t be able to get free money out of the situation

The view of a city’s skyline is always one of the lasting memories you have of a city. New York with the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower, Seattle with the Space Needle, and Chicago with the Willis Tower.

One of the things that people like to do is take pictures of those skylines, which is fantastic from afar, but not from within, as you can’t take a picture of the skyline, from the skyline…with that in mind, it brings me to Mount Royal where you have a mountain overlooking the city and can take a picture of those great lines.

But going to the top of these tall buildings and looking down on the city is a rite of tourism, so up to the top of the Willis Tower I headed, where they have a glass box sticking out the side of the building that can make it look like you are standing over nothing 1500 feet in the air (but is likely not worth the half-hour wait for that photo opportunity).

One of the downsides of Chicago is that most of the main parts fall within the Loop, and that area isn’t terribly large, so when you are at the top of the center of it, there’s not much to see up there, without looking straight down…sure you can see really far…but you can do that from the airplane as you fly into the city.

Maybe next time I should head to the top of the Hancock Tower (seen to the right side of the featured picture above), so at least I can get a view of the most famous tall building in Chicago…the Willis Tower.

Everyone who has an Instagram and visits Chicago has to do the same thing…head to Millennium Park and take a picture with one of the biggest tourist traps in America these days. It used to be on road trips visiting the largest rubber band ball or the world’s best ceramic cow, but now it’s that stupid Bean…or what’s officially known as the Cloud Gate.

I went, I took my pictures of it, and I moved on through the throngs of crowds flocking to it, but as I explored Millennium Park, I found a few other parts of the park that had no people surrounding them, but were infinitely cooler.

  • Buckingham Fountain — This bronze fountain is fun to watch as it dances around, but it really comes to life at night in the warmer months as they turn it into a ten-minute light show
  • Maggie Daley Park rock climbing — Rock Climbing walls are all the rage these days, but it’s nice to see one outdoors surrounded by nature and just a great view of the Chicago skyline
  • Jay Pritzker Pavillion — This is the newer outdoor bandshell in the park, but it’s got a cool feel to it, that offers great acoustics for musical events
  • Crown Fountain — Kids splish-splash in the water that bounces around this area, but the crowning jewel is the two tall video walls that have videos playing through them, as water pushes out of the images

The Museum of Science and Industry is located just south of Chicago, and is a fantastic place of learning for people of all ages, as it has a lot of history, but also plenty of hands-on experiences to let you learn and feel your way through. It is one of the options included in the Chicago CityPass (highly recommended) and when you buy admission to the Museum, it comes with many options, including Ticketed Experiences and a tour of the U-505 in the basement…but more on that in a minute.

The museum as a whole has plenty of options before you start adding in the extras that it offers, but among those ticketed/timed experiences are:

  • Wired to Wear: A look into how technology is advancing with smart clothes and devices that are helping change our wardrobes for the next generation
  • Future Energy Chicago: With the increasing demand for energy consumption, this is a look at how Chicago may approach the evolving revolution to power the future
  • Coal Mine Tour: Since 1933 this exhibit has taken people down the mineshaft and along the rails as you explore a true-to-life coal mine, complete with safety regulations and machinery that helped make their jobs easier, like the rock pusher below

As for their regular exhibits, that includes:

  • Henry Crown Space Center: Spacecrafts litter the room as they look into the missions that took us into space, as well as discussions about future trips to Mars and beyond
  • The Art of the Bicycle: Bikes have been around for 200+ years, and the evolution of them never stops, as they’ve gone from different sizes wheels to all sorts of materials to help make them lighter and faster. The room is full of tens of bikes, including this speedster:
  • Tesla Coil: 1.5 Million Volts surge through this tesla coil suspended from the ceiling, and you can hear the energy release all around the museum, as it jumps 10 feet between the grounding rings
  • U-505 Submarine: Elusive. Deadly. Captured. This German U-boar was lurking the waters, and the US Navy tracked it down, convincing the Germans that they had sunk the submarine, instead took it and captured it to learn its technologies.
    Now it lives in the museum basement as a sight to explore, learning what life is like inside and how it works, all while discovering its amazing story.
  • Transportation Gallery: This room is a giant garage of things that have roamed the Earth, from planes to trains and other land cruisers, including a 1903 Wright Flyer replica.

Plain and simple, one of the worst aquariums I’ve been to, as it is a tourist trap designed to offer the least, for the most amount of money.

Zoos and aquariums should be fun experiences, giving everyone the opportunity to explore animals in their environments. But instead, the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium is a tourist trap, laying under The Wheel at Icon Park, and forcing people to walk thru a tight path with dim lighting interspersed with strobe lighting. To add to the real tourist experience, the aquarium offers a 15% discount to those that purchase online versus those who walk up to the door.

But let’s talk about what they do have to offer!

The aquarium offers distinct zones, focusing on the different water zones on Earth, from the Indian to Pacific Oceans, and the local Atlantic Ocean and Everglades.

They do have great views of jellyfish, as they light up the water, and you can get right up against the glass with stingrays, seeing their funny looking smiles on their bellies.

At the end of the day, don’t waste your time on this aquarium. I know that Sea World costs a lot more, as does Disney, but if you are going to be visiting Orlando, don’t waste your money on this one…

Taylor Swift is well known and all over the Billboard lists, but after Reputation didn’t get her the nominations she wanted, she went on a quest to write fresh music and put herself back on top.

Miss Americana is a look into the past, present, and future of her life and career. This includes looks into her first awards, writing music, and playing guitar as a young girl. It’s the biography that people used to write when they would reach a point of their career, meeting the 21st-century need for digital entertainment.

This show explores some of the most famous moments of her career, including the infamous Kanye fiasco where he basically bullied a 17-year-old on a National stage, and how that helped shaped her into doing music her way, and taking no prisoners in her quest for musical domination.
Taylor also goes into her $1 counter-suit in her groping case against a DJ during a photo-op, and how dehumanizing the entire case felt, despite having seven witnesses and a photo, and then it just came down to his word against hers.

This is a almost 90-minute look at her life and how it hits its extreme highs with Grammy wins and a lot of lows, including the loneliness of being on top with no one around to call, looking at herself and feeling too fat and fighting with eating disorders, and facing the internet backlash of telling her she sucks whilst dealing with her mothers fight against cancer.

She even delves into her decision to talk politics, despite the fact that country music has always been about keeping that life separate from your music (referencing back to the Dixie Chicks quick decline after their anti-Bush comments). It reached a point in the Tennessee races though where she felt like she needed to step over that line and make her feelings known, despite any fallout her career may see from it.

One thing that it did give me insight into is the thought process of many Millenials, as they forget the differences between religion and feelings. It’s not possible to change how religion views a lot of things, but it is possible to change how each individual feels.
It is perfectly okay for people to have their own opinions, but when she makes comments about “I am a Christian and I am from Tennessee, and that’s not how I feel” she forgets the middle-America values and how much they put their thought processes into the hands of religion.
You need to make people believe in free-thought and the right for others to live the life they choose, and less about forcing them to change how religion has viewed things for thousands of years.

Miss Americana won’t be high on many peoples watchlists, and while the true Swifties have probably seen it already, most other people can make this a Saturday night watching. Catch it now on Netflix.

As the NASCAR season kicks off in a few weeks, I turn my attention to Daytona International Speedway, the place built by Bill France Sr. himself, the founder of NASCAR, and home to the “Super Bowl of NASCAR” the Daytona 500.

As you walk up to the Speedway you are greeted by a statue of France Sr and of Dale Earnhardt Sr. who passed away at the track in 2001, and by Champions Walk of Fame, featuring hand and footprints of previous winners.

As you ride around the track it’s amazing to stare straight up at the 31° banking in the corners, and then get out and walk up the 18°s at the finish line, and realize that cars drive crooked on there approaching 200 MPH.

Meanwhile, you can glance up at the seating while the stands are empty, and see the great work done on the color patterns, to make it always appear from afar that every seat is taken.

The pit lane and Gatorade Victory Lane are appropriately blackened with tire marks, and when you stand there to take a picture you can feel the excitement in the air of being where some of the best drivers in the world stood (and the absence of some of the best from the aforementioned Walk of Fame, like Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Brad Keselowski).

Behind the pits are the endless garages, able to hold the teams from the Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series, and among them the Fanzone, that can hold hundreds who want to party before the event, or spend time there during the race.

In the center of the track is Lake Lloyd, a 29-acre man-made lake, that is there to help control the water on the track, and is where they took the dirt from to form the banking around the track. The lake is full of fish and hosts speedboat races and fishing tournaments.

Also at the track is a museum that features the heritage of Daytona, from when they drove on the beach all the way thru the most recent winning car.

If you get a chance to go to Daytona, be sure to take the tour, it’s worth every penny to take the tour and walk on the track, climb the stands, and see a piece of racing history.

It amazes me how everyone focuses on “Drinking Around The World” when they enter the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow…but do they not realize they are paying large dollars to get into the park, and then paying even more for tapas and Mango Gingerita’s?

No, the better parts are the ones that show you the communities of tomorrow, the essence that the park was created around.

Living With The Land gives a great glimpse into how we can live better with the land around us, and make the most of the space and world we live in. Disney World uses innovation and cross-breeding to produce high-yield crops, including fruits and vegetables from around the world, as well as fishes growing in their “fish farm”.

Meanwhile, The Seas With Nemo & Friends is an underwater journey through reefs and sea anemone, and when you come out the other end you get to explore a saltwater aquarium full of clownfish, sharks, and turtles!

Other great attractions include:

  • Test Track where you can build a car and put it up against your opponent to see which one of you can go fastest.
  • Soarin’ is a hang gliding experience that takes you on a journey Around The World over some of the greatest sights Earth has to offer.
  • Character Spot offers a great place to meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, away from the crowds, and is usually easy to find late-day pickups of FastPass+ to make for a minimal line for that fantastic photo op!
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival offers you a 3D look at some of Disney’s shorts, from their early days through today. Unfortunately, with the launch of Disney+, this attraction has no real draw anymore, since you can watch a lot of these films from the comfort of your own home, without needing to waste Disney Park time on it…

Cheer is a Netflix docuseries focusing on the Navarro College cheer squad.

When you first hear the title “Cheer”, you picture pom-poms and “Rah Rah Rah”, but this squad is a far cry from that, as their athletic levels are through the roof as they push their energy, bodies, and talents to their absolute limits.

All this as they gear up for the annual NCA College Nationals in Daytona Beach, the National Cheerleaders Associations competition for college athletes, the current highest level that they can compete in these days, although there is a push for it to be added as an Olympic event for LA 2020.

Before I watched this show I would’ve said that adding Cheer to the Olympics seems like a silly idea, but after watching this 6-part series, and learning a bit about how they score plus the amount of skill is actually required for all of this, I see this as just a difficult a team challenge as figure skating (which got a great Drama dropped in early January on Netflix, in Spinning Out).

Throughout this series, we really get to know Monica Aldama, the coach and driving force of the Navarro College cheer squad, as well as the students who make up this team. Students such as Gabi Butler, a cheer star who is well known through her videos online, and Jerry Harris, a leading voice to help pump this team-up who went through a lot with losing his mother to cancer. Add in Lexi Brumback, a tumbler who can keep up with the boys and struggles with her troubled past and present, as well as Morgan Simianer, who is the constant fighting underdog with another rough life leading to her time with Cheer (where it might get better (if you consider bruised ribs better)).

Take the time to dive into this show, especially if you were a fan of the Step Up movie series (or the ensuing Step Up: High Water TV series on YouTube, which has two seasons), and those type of shows, or if you just enjoy a good look behind the scenes of a popular American tradition.

The one setback of the show is that you can’t see the actual performance from a “TV standpoint” but rather you see it as iPhone footage, as the climax of the show since there was a conflict with Varsity Spirit, the company that puts on the event, although according to news articles, it appears like future events/seasons may have better footage.
But to be honest, while seeing articles complaining about the lack of that real view, I liked having the “behind the scenes” feel to all of it, since that’s what the show really was about.

The 62nd Grammys are Sunday night, hosted by Alicia Keys, and here are my completely terrible predictions, based on who I think should win, and not who will actually win! Enjoy 🙂

I have only done categories in which I know enough about the music to choose from:

Record of the Year — Bad Guy by Billie Eilish — Billie Eilish exploded onto the scene this year, and I would love to see her walk away with at least one of these awards

Album of the Year — thank u, next by Ariana Grande — Contrary to what I literally just said, I think Ariana deserves the award for the best total album, as people like Lil Nas X and Lizzo had good songs, they didn’t shine across the full albums

Song of the Year — Lover by Taylor Swift — Bad Guy is right up there as my favorite of the category, but Lover was a very well planned out song by T-Swift
Meanwhile, the truly annoying “Truth Hurts by Lizzo” is sure to make some noise on the night…

Best New Artist — Billie Eilish

Best Pop Solo Performance — Bad Guy by Billie Eilish
“7 Rings by Ariana Grande” also deserves a mention, but I don’t think “You Need To Calm Down by Taylor” is better than the previously mentioned Lover

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance — Senorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello — I think “Sucker by the Jonas Brothers” has a good chance as well, but Senorita absolutely exploded onto the music scene

Best Pop Vocal Album — No. 6 Collaborations Project by Ed Sheeran — I’m going with Ed here, as I think it’s likely to be his last music for a long while, but this is a really strong category, with Grande, Eilish, Swift, and even Beyonce in this category!

Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Country Song — Speechless by Dan + Shay — I’m speechless that this was nominated

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Although I can see “A Star is Born” taking this one

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