Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Tomorrow starts my 10-day Japanese odyssey with my friend Gina. I've got cherry blossom fever big time, so I can't wait to get moving despite the 30-hour journey from Cleveland to Kyoto. BUT, I found out that I've been upgraded to first class (for free) for the first leg of our flight tomorrow to Houston, so I'm psyched. I've never flown first class before! Hopefully we can convince the folks at check-in to let Gina accompany me. Now if only we can score deluxe seats for the 14-hour flight from Houston to Tokyo and the four-hour train ride to Kyoto... Here are some highlights of our itinerary:

Kyoto: April 2-6
- Visit Nijo Castle and as many of the 19,000 temples in the city as possible
- Go geisha watching in Gion
- Breathe in the cherry blossoms (check out the blooming forecast...perfect timing!)
- Take a sushi cooking class

Hakone: April 6-7
- Explore the Venetian glass museum (the blogger who reviewed the museum in the link helped us to plan our transportation for our trip. Thanks Sandy!)
- Ride the Hakone ropeway by Mount Fuji

Lake Kawaguchiko: April 7-8
- Admire kimono at the Itchiku Kubota Museum at Mount Fuji (Canton currently is showing kimono from this museum, and I saw a preview of the exhibit in San Diego)
- Sample the hot spring by our hotel

Tokyo: April 8-10
- Ogle giant tuna at the Tsukiji Fish Market
- Poke around the Imperial Palace
- Grab coffee with a reporter at Time magazine in the ginormous Mori Tower

FYI, since we're staying in Japanese ryokans for most of our trip, I won't have reliable Web access until Tokyo. I'll do what I can to find Internet cafes every couple days to blog, and I'm hoping I'll have Web access on my work phone so I can send travel updates via Twitter (check the home page of my blog on the right side). The phone's on the fritz, so I'm doubtful that will happen since I can't make or receive calls at this point. So, DON'T WORRY if you don't hear from me for a while. We're going to have a great time, and we're visiting very safe cities.

Back to packing...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How to score March Madness tickets

Lots of our peeps have been asking how we got tix to the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament this year, so here's a quick tutorial. Warning: if you want to buy tix at face value, you need to start planning NOW.

At the conclusion of the 2008 Final Four, I used this site to track which cities hosted rounds for 2009 (the link now includes the 2010 tourney sites) since the list of cities changes every year. I decided to try to get seats for U of Dayton first and second rounds, so I stalked the university's site until it began accepting applications for 2009 (a couple weeks after the tournament ended).

Yes, you have to apply. Last year there was a $10 application fee. FYI, the greedy NCAA charges your credit card immediately for the full value of the tickets, despite the fact that I didn't find out till July that we actually were going to get tix, and we didn't actually know where our seats were till we got tix in hand about three weeks ago.

Incidentally the NCAA is being sued in a class-action suit for charging a non-refundable application fee and charging credit cards immediately, so maybe I'll eventually get my $10 back. :)

We were a little bummed that our seats weren't in the lower level, but they've provided great views, and we've since realized that a lot of the lower seats are reserved for schools. We've been sitting above the Louisville section of fans, which has been fun.

Oh, regarding our hotel this weekend, I saved up hotel points and cashed in rewards in exchange for a room (I booked last July when I knew for sure we'd get tix. Some hotels were already full). We've been using up our stash of restaurant gift cards from Christmas for our meals, so this weekend has been pretty recession-proof.

P.S. I did all of my ticket-scouring activity behind Phil's back since I gave him our tix as a surprise Christmas gift. It is a MIRACLE that I didn't spill the beans.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

OSU Heartbreaker

Phil and I watched some amazing games yesterday, but our basketball bliss ended on a sour note after a sloppy Ohio State loss in double OT to Siena. We weren't the only ones bummed out because there was a sea of Bucks fans throughout the arena, which contributed to lots of tired, crabby drivers in the parking cluster $%*# after the game.

Despite the loss, the energy of the crowd was great! During the high points, the O-H-I-O wave circulated around the arena multiple times. At the low points, disgruntled fans kept shouting, "Give it to Mullins! He's 7-ft. That's really tall!"

There also were massive amounts of Louisville fans, which is why we were really hoping for a U of L and OSU showdown tomorrow. Oh well. Now I can cheer unconflicted for Louisville. :)

The Pitt game was really fun because of the almost upset of a #1 seed. Although we both have Pitt in our final four, we cheered for ETSU since they were the underdog.

In general, all the games have been fairly close, with the exception of the second half of Louisville/Morehead when U of L pulled away. And, Cleveland State crushed Wake Forest! Go Vikings! Thanks to everyone who kept texting me updates.

This morning, we're lounging at our hotel and then will head to Columbus later to meet up with some friends. Tomorrow, Pitt plays at 2:50 p.m. and Louisville plays at 5:20 p.m., meaning we won't get home till really late Sunday/Monday.

P.S. One of the best parts of seeing the games in-person - no lie - is watching all the guys wait in massive lines for the men's room while I breeze in and out of the ladies' room in no time. Where else could this possibly happen???

Friday, March 20, 2009

March Madness in Dayton

It's been so long that I've posted that I actually forgot my Blogger log-in this morning. Work's been insane, so I didn't even post when I had a work day trip to St. Louis last month. But, I'm back!
Phil and I are in Dayton for our first March Madness experience. Today we'll see four games: Louisville (my fave!), Ohio State (yay!), Pitt and Tennessee. All great teams. Sunday, we'll see two games featuring today's winners. If it's Louisville vs. Ohio State, I'll be faced with a real cheering conundrum and probs will clap for every play.
Last year, I had an amazing climb to victory (3rd place) in my office's March Madness pool. My first round picks all tanked, but I made up points big time because all the teams I picked were in the final four and I picked Kansas as the winner.
This year, my first round picks are still in the toilet (I picked a lot of upsets), so we'll see if I have the same luck. If not, I'll still be talking about last year's money grab for YEARS.