Crystals, Witchcraft & Wizardry

Last month, my girlfriend and I moved into a new apartment. We both agreed that it would be a good idea to “Sage” the new place, since it was something we both had only heard of but never tried.

“Do we just order some sage from Amazon?” she asked me, but I thought that didn’t seem right. I told her we had to find a real witch or visit a Witchcraft & Wizardry shop to pick up some proper sage. Who knows where Amazon sage comes from?*

*Side Quest: I later searched for “Sage” on Amazon and it turns out there are many small businesses (possibly small witchcraft shops) providing it.
Still, nothing beats actually going to a witch store yourself.

After some light googling, I found a couple of options for Witchcraft (aka Metaphysical) shops all over Miami. I decided to visit one on US 1, right next to Grown (Ray Allen’s healthy food restaurant I have yet to visit). I really liked this shop, but I’m also excited to visit other local stores in the future and see what kind of vibes I get.

*Side Quest: Before visiting the witchcraft shop I had talked to a friend who is sort of an amateur witch herself about what exactly we needed to cleanse our new
apartment. She recommended both Sage and Palo Santo, one to reset
and the other to invite positive vibes. It was nice to show up to the
witchcraft shop with a little bit of knowledge.

After figuring out what we needed, I visited the shop. I chose this store due to convenience, after leaving a check up at the doctor (my first ever, but maybe you’ll hear about that in another post), this was on the way home. I spoke to a nice lady and learned a lot about Sage, Palo Santo and some other stuff too.

After figuring out exactly what we needed for the new apartment cleansing, I came across a whole section of crystals and elements. I began asking questions about those, and now I am somewhat of a crystal person. My journey began with purchasing a few crystals for my girlfriend and I to carry around in our backpacks.

The cool thing about becoming a crystal person is that you get to choose what to believe and what not to believe. It’s sort of like being a horoscope person.

*Side Quest: Horoscopes are funny because they just state a bunch of information hoping that you will see something you like and say, “Hey, that’s me!.” They also have
different variants, like sun and moon signs, that give you even more
options to choose from.

Crystals are kind of like horoscopes because each crystal has multiple “uses” or traits (or powers). I chose a few based on particular traits, while ignoring others. I recently talked to a friend about her crystal necklace, and she told me it’s not about believing in the crystals magic powers, but more the idea of it — like a positive thinking thing.

Here’s a character sheet I created for my portfolio
site back when I graduated the Miami Ad School.
Now, with the power of crystals, everything can be modified.

Being a crystal person is sort of like creating your own D&D character, but in real life. Carrying around (and wearing) crystals can add a few points to your daily Dexterity, Charisma, Insight, Wisdom and other character traits. It’s a fun way to edit your life’s character sheet.

*Side Quest: When it comes to religion I always thought it would be way more fun to believe in Greek Mythology. How cool is it to have a different god for each concept.
It’s almost like having different superheroes as your gods. Poseidon is like
Aquaman (DC) or Namor (Marvel). Thor is a god from Norse mythology —
another fun collection of gods and rulers.

Another thing I like about crystals is that I can make up any theory about my crystals and make it a real thing. I can even tell others about it (as long as they are not a certified witch or wizard).

I went back to the store last week and picked up a Lava Stone bracelet, because (1) I want to start wearing my stones to absorb more power, and (2) I’ve always wanted to become more of a bracelet person. Now that Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard is over — and Johnny won — it’s still cool to wear a bunch of bracelets like a pirate, right?

Yesterday, I went for a kayak ride on the open water. I would usually not wear any jewelry, other than my Apple Watch for kayaking, running or working out. I decided to keep my Lava Stone bracelet on to “recharge” it with the ocean water. That’s a thing I possibly made up, but now I feel like my Lava Stones are giving me more powers, so it also worked.


If you are another amateur crystal/stone person who would like to come up with cool facts and ideas about these things let me know. If you aren’t a crystal/stone person, have fun living your boring life.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2022: Vol I • It’s A’Bao Time

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has been a part of Walt Disney World for over 25 years (according to some light internet research). In the early years, the festival lasted about a month. Today, it spans from July to November (or five months) — that’s almost half of the year!

Epcot has also held new, seasonal Food & Wine-style festivals — Flower & Garden, Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Holidays — so now there’s pretty much some kind of food and drink event happening at Epcot, year round.


Epcot Events: Learnings & Tips

For the past ten years, I’ve attended these food and drink festivals multiple times each and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

[1] Pace Yourself

Don’t attempt to eat and sip all of the food and drink in one day. It’s better to visit a festival more than once — if you’re able to — this way you can focus on a few items each trip. Make sure to take breaks throughout the day. If you plan to be in the park until close, it’s a good strategy to break up your eating into a day and night session. If you enter through the back entrance of the park (near France) you can even visit Spaceship Earth for a mid-voyage nap.

[2] Weekdays over Weekends

If you can swing it, visit Epcot on a weekday over the weekend. In fact, that should be a general Disney park rule. On most weekends the Food & Wine festival becomes the Food and Line festival. The lines can get long pretty much any day, but you can always save a busy stop for later. It will become less busy later on. If you have to go on a weekend, I find that Sundays to be a little less crowded than a Saturday.

[3] Too Hot to Handle

The Epcot Food & Wine Festival just began in mid-July — or mid-summer. I find the perfect Disney park days (weatherwise) always lie somewhere between October and April — you just have to get lucky and choose the right day. Instead of hitting up the Food & Wine Festival early on, it may be preferable to wait for the final months, or even the following festivals — Festival of the Holidays.

[4] No Sit Down Meals

I’ve attended Epcot Food & Wine with large groups in the past. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is when we spend the whole day eating and drinking, only to make our way to a restaurant for a 9pm reservation. Who wants to go to a restaurant after all of that? Plus, I don’t want to miss Harmonious (Epcot’s new firework and water projection show).

[5] Buddy System

Speaking of big groups, a great way to save some money (and room in your belly) is by developing a buddy system. Find someone with similar taste to share certain items with. If a country has two snacks you want to try, you can each purchase one and share.


It’s A’Bao Time

So, what did I eat during my first visit to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? This trip, I focused on the Steamed Buns and Baos of Japan, China, and Flavors of Fire. There were some other bonus snacks, but I definitely did not overeat this trip. Let’s talk a’bao(t) the three steamed buns first.

Item #1 – JAPAN Teriyaki Chicken Bun

The first steamed bun I ate was the Teriyaki Chicken Bun from the Japan market. This bun was soft and pillowy, and fully closed as opposed to the open-style, bao buns at my other stops. The bun was filled with a blend of chicken and vegetables in Teriyaki sauce. The filling was thick and saucy, instead of soupy (like a soup dumpling). I would have liked to see a second option for a steamed bun.

ITEM #2 – CHINA Mongolian Beef Bao Bun

The Mongolian Beef at Epcot Food & Wine Festival has been one of my favorite flavors over the years. I remember it being a closed bun at some point, like the Japanese one, but I may be wrong. Either way, I would love to have these delicious flavors inside of a closed steamed bun.

The open bao was also perfectly fluffy and doughy. I could have used some extra veggies or maybe some sort of spicy thin-sliced spicy peppers or crunchy topping. Still, that Mongolian Beef flavor is great with the onions.

ITEM #3 – FLAVORS FROM FIRE Bahn Mi Bao & Smoked Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes

At this stop, we tried two items, the bao bun and the crispy, cheesy potato chip nachos. Of all three buns, this was the most complicated flavor-wise. The bao featured skirt steak, chicken liver aioli, pickled vegetables, and cilantro. The Asian skirt steak had a fire-roasted quality, which came from the fire grill. In fact, the whole area smelled amazing, like smoke and fire.

My buddy picked up the cheesy corned beef potato chips, which were like a smokey, cheesy potato nacho plate with smoked corned beef, cheese curds, pickled onions, and beer-cheese fondue. Flavors from Fire’s bun may have been my favorite due to the extra toppings and smoked flavor.


Bonus Snacks

BONUS #1 – GERMANY Roasted Bratwurst & Schinkennudeln

The Roasted Bratwurst is a great treat because although it comes in a smaller, slider-sized pretzel bun the bratwurst itself is still the size of a regular hot dog. So, it ends up being a pretty filling snacky. You also get some german mustard for dipping.

There are a bunch of hot cheese treats featured throughout the Food & Wine Festival. These are usually not something you want to eat while walking around in the hot sun. Most of them are delicious and the one that we did try was the Schinkennudeln, which is a cheesy pasta gratin with ham and onions. Other stations have hot cheese soup type snacks (like Canada’s Cheddar and Bacon soup), which would be better suited for the Winter.

BONUS #2 – HOPS & BARLEY Hot Beef Sandwich

I took a break from Food & Wine due to rain, and went over to check out Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. When I returned to Epcot it was almost time for the 9PM show, Harmonious, which also happens to be when everything closes.

At 8:55 PM I was able to visit my final station in America (Hops & Barley) to grab a Hot Beef Sandwich with horseradish cream, and topped with extra veggies and crunchies. I’m not sure if I got extra, extra crunchies for being the final order of the night or if that’s just how they do it. 

I also picked up my first drink, a small Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale which paired well with the hot beef sandwich. I’m sure each beer option pairs well with that hot beef sandwich, it’s just nice to have any beer with a spicy sandwich.


My Food & Wine Misses

There were two things I did wrong, one that was my fault and the other I blame on the festival. (1) I did not have the chance to visit Brazil for their Feijoda (Black Beans and Crispy Pork Belly) and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread). This one was my fault. I wasn’t ready for it earlier in the day, and due to the rain and visiting a second park, I returned too late to make it to Brazil before Harmonious began. I do remember that crispy pork belly being my favorite thing when I first tried it.

The second disappointment, and this one is Epcot’s fault, is that the Hawai’i station is not opening until August for some reason. The Kalua Pork Slider has been one of the top favorites at Food & Wine for a couple of years now. I was also excited to finally try the SPAM Musubi Nigiri, which is like a Spicy Tuna Roll with SPAM instead of Tuna. So, I guess I have to go back.

I plan to return to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival some time before it ends in November, but if I don’t make it out there I will definitely return to cover some of the other festivals that follow. 

Do you have a favorite Epcot (or Disney Parks) snack? Share it in the comments, messages, email me, text me or any other way you’d like to tell me about it.

Stay tuned for more Ferdi’s Learnings coming soon.

Back at Florida Supercon 2022

My first time attending Florida Supercon (or any Con) was back in 2013. My friends, Worms and Isis, invited me since we’re into a lot of the same nerdy stuff (mostly things they got me into), so I decided to go and I brought my camera along — we also ran into another buddy who’s into the nerd stuff, Rudy (who made a comeback during Supercon 2022).

Back then, Florida Supercon was a much smaller event. It took place in the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC). Since then, I’ve seen the show continue to grow to the larger CON that it is today, thanks to ReedPop taking over. In 2014, Florida Supercon moved to the Miami Beach Convention Center, a few years later to Fort Lauderdale (due to construction). For the past few years, (minus a canceled 2020 Supercon) it has taken place in the newly reconstructed Miami Beach Convention Center.

There was a period of time when the whole thing took place over the 4th of July weekend —- which was a terrible time to be on Miami Beach. Luckily, this year it took place the weekend after, which was good enough for me.

What to do?

There’s a few things I like to do at a CON (I have also attended MegaCon in Orlando once). (1) I bring comics to get signed by artists and writers. I also buy prints and artwork from some of those artists. (2) I like to spend money on nerdy/geeky fan art and other stuff too. This year I bought some posters, stickers, a shirt and my first set of metal dice. (3) I also try to attend some panels. And (4) I like to meet the guests. Guests come from all places: movies, TV, anime, YouTube, Twitch, even Wrestling.

Over the years, I’ve come up with a fun way to meet these guests that makes it exciting and sometimes memorable for both of us. I like to make them drawings of characters they’ve played, usually in animation. This also helps me get back to drawing, which is something I used to do when bored in school.

Super Guests

Guest tables are where you go to meet the “famous” people. At each guest table you may pay for an autograph, photo, sometimes a voice recording or whatever else that guest feels like selling. You can also just meet them. I never pay for any of the extras because I’m just excited to meet and have an interaction with these people.

*Side Quest: I understand why they charge so much for each thing, if they didn’t they’d be signing things, taking photos and not really “meeting” anyone. It also helps keep the lines under control. Sure, certain lines get extra super long, but for the most part you can always come back and find a better time to visit. If a guest table is empty at the moment, you can always ask any of the “guest handlers” when they plan to return. Handlers have access to the full guest schedule, although sometimes they just go out for a snack or bathroom break.

What I’ve learned over the years is that many of the guests are very kind and thankful when you bring them a gift. They especially like homemade gifts. Some may even waive the fee of an autograph or picture as a trade off.

It’s also a good ice breaker to give them a drawing of a character that you’re a fan of. From there they may go into some fun stories about working on that project. When I brought Jason Isaacs (aka Lucius Malfoy) a drawing of his character from Star Wars: Rebels (the Grand Inquisitor) and he said, “Oh wow, I’ve never seen the show. Did I do a good job?”

When I met John DiMaggio he started speaking in his Bender voice and other character voices. He also gifted me a signed picture of King Zog.

This year’s Supercon was full of The Walking Dead actors. I had the chance to meet Cooper Andrews (Jerry), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Seth Gilliam (Gabriel) and to chat with each of them for a bit. I talked to Cooper about acting and creativity, and Ross and Seth both took pictures with me for giving them drawings. Ross also did some of his spot on Michael Caine impression.

When Kate Flannery was at Supercon two years in a row, I brought her a different animated character drawing each year. The second time she said, “I remember you! Let’s take a photo.”

A few years ago, I was excited to meet Bret Iwan (the current  voice of Mickey Mouse). I ended up attending a panel with him and two other voice actors I wasn’t too familiar with, Adam Croasdell (Ignis Scientia from Final Fantasy XV) and Steve J Palmer (Bill from Red Dead Redemption 2). After the panel I went on to their tables just to tell them I really enjoyed the panel. Adam was a super cool dude and we talked for about twenty minutes.

I stopped by Steve’s table on my way out. No one was in line behind me. I told him I just wanted to say hello and that I really enjoyed the panel. We ended up talking for about an hour about his start, acting, improv, food, and so much more. After that I decided I should try to meet as many of the guests as I can, even if I’m not so interested in their main projects.

This year, when I returned on Sunday (after attending on Friday) I ended up meeting a few anime guests that I wasn’t too familiar with. I made them drawings of some of their work, but not the main anime shows people were mainly excited about. I ended up having some really cool conversations with these people too. And since then, I started watching a little more anime to see their work.

Two anime people I met were Todd Haberkorn and Amanda C. Miller (both from Boruto: Naruto Next Generations). I gave them each a non-Boruto drawing, and had good conversations with each of them. Todd was Mr. Knickerbocker on Barney and Amanda was Princess Quasar Caterpillar on Star vs the Forces of Evil.

Fun Times

I have definitely seen a few guests who are only there to make some extra cash off of fans, but for the most part everyone I’ve met has been excited to be there and talk to some people who admire their work. The same can be said for most comic artists and booths. They are mostly there to show off their work and meet people. On a few occasions I did see some of the artists walking the floor, which is cool to see.

Florida Supercon weekend is a super fun and awesome weekend. I do hope to visit some more CONs around the country. I will also be sharing some of my favorite artists, booths and other posts about the event on myVGBC.com. So keep an eye out for those.

For now, here’s some of the cool stuff I picked up while at Florida Supercon:

Also, as promised here is Rudy’s comeback to Florida Supercon 2022:


*I was able to attend Florida Supercon 2022 last weekend with a Press Pass thanks to my other site myVGBC.com, although I do plan to post about it on both of my sites (this one being the other one).

Urinals & Bathroom Humor

This first question is for the dudes. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a pee in a public restroom and you hear female voices coming from outside and immediately think you may be in the wrong bathroom? Then, you look down and realize you’re peeing at a urinal and they don’t have those in women’s bathrooms — or at least that is what we’ve been told.

Do women even know what a urinal looks like in real life? I guess from TV and movies, right? But I bet they would look weird in real life if you weren’t used to seeing them all the time.


I remember back in middle school the boys thought it was funny to lock each other in the girls bathroom. It was like the scariest thing that could happen, because that is exactly where you would go to catch the cooties. One day our teacher got annoyed and split the class into two groups: girls and boys.

She then took the girls on a field trip to the boys bathroom and the boys on a field trip to the girls bathroom to show us they were basically the same. I think one boy asked, “hey, where’s the urinals?” I remember the girl’s room having pink tiles on the wall, while we had blue — like a gender reveal party.


Here’s another bathroom thing I hear all the time lately. Any time the line for the Men’s bathroom is longer than the Women’s, I hear about seventeen different people say the same thing, “Wow, the men’s line is longer than the women’s? That never happens.”

What I noticed lately is that this does happen, often. Usually at places like the movies, after watching a big action movie. Something like Top Gun: Maverick or any new Marvel or Star Wars. It happens at sporting events and at rock concerts. It even happens at casinos (last time I was at the Hard Rock).

I’m pretty sure the men’s line is longer than the women’s line in most bathrooms, other than bars. And even there, lately the men have had a longer line. It was in college when women’s lines were always longer.


That’s all the bathroom thoughts I’ve had lately. I hope you enjoyed them. Thanks and I’ll be back later this week or next week with a special new post if everything goes as planned.

ANIMALS = MACHINES (birds are planes)

You know what’s crazy? Birds can fly. Think of any time you ask another human this question, If you could have one superpower what would it be? Most people say the ability to fly. Creepy people say invisibility so they can be peeping toms and get away with it.

Birds have that ability (Not the peeping tom one). Birds can fly. Birds are basically living, breathing planes. The whole idea for planes was definitely stolen from birds.

The Wright Bros Conversation

(A super long time ago)

Joe Wright: Yo bro, how can we get to North Carolina, but like real fast.

Greg Wright: I don’t know Joe.

(GREG looks up to the sky. Sees birds flying.)

Greg Wright: What if… Naw, never mind. That’s stupid.

Joe Wright: The only stupid thing you can do is not tell me what you just thought, bro.

Greg Wright: Well, what if we could do… that?

(GREG points to the birds)

Joe Wright: Oh my god! What???

Greg Wright: I know I told you it’s stupid.

Joe Wright: Stupid? Greg, you’re a genius.

*And that’s kind of how we got planes. Because of the Wright Brothers and birds and one day thinking about transportation while in an open field.

**No research was done to make sure this is how the Wright Brothers history went down. This is just a hypothesis.

This got me thinking, can humans do anything cool like that? Birds can transform into planes (even though birds came first). 

I guess humans can run, but that’s just like walking — but a little faster. Birds can do both of those things, and FLY!

What we can do is turn into boats, or submarines. Humans can swim. And swimming is pretty cool, because it’s not just moving through the water like walking or running under water. You have to become sort of a machine. You have to propel yourself through the water, using one of a few different techniques.

There’s also many different ways to swim and that’s very groovy too. We have the freestyle, the breaststroke, the backstroke, the froggy one (like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible). 

Birds only really have one, well, maybe two ways of flying — flappy wings or gliding.

How do you think swimming was invented? Who was the first human to swim? Was some human stuck in the middle of open water with nowhere to go and just started trying some different techniques out? Did someone fall in a pool and swim to the edge, and then everyone was like, “Yo, what was that? Are you a machine?”

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I guess I was just trying to say that “Swimming is Cool!”

Disney Snacks • Magic Kingdom: The Search for my Mickey Cake Pop

A few years ago, while visiting Walt Disney World with my buddy (who lived in Orlando at the time), I learned about my favorite Disney treat — the Mickey Cake Pop. We were visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios and there was a small bakery (or confectionery) inside one of the Sunset Boulevard shops (near Tower of Terror). That was the place to get cake pops and other sweet treats inside of Hollywood Studios — once upon a time.

From that day forward, any time I would visit a Disney Park with my buddy we always picked up some Mickey Cake Pops, except in Epcot. There is no confectionery in Epcot, but that’s fine with me. Epcot has tons of great snacks and treats to eat, and Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (the French bakery).

Side Quest:
Today, that Sunset Boulevard Bakery no longer exists.
In fact, there is no confectionery inside of Hollywood Studios.
It’s very sad that I can no longer pick up a Mickey Cake Pop
inside of Hollywood Studios*
(*my most visited Disney Park in recent years).

Since the loss of the Sunset Boulevard Bakery, Mickey Cake Pops are now only available in 50% of Walt Disney World Parks — the two Kingdoms, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. You can also probably find them somewhere in Disney Springs.

During my return to Magic Kingdom last month I had a small scare. I planned on eating some good treats, including something I’ve never had before. However, I also planned on finally having another Mickey Cake Pop — which I hadn’t enjoyed in over a year.

I’ve compiled this short journal of my meals during my last visit to Magic Kingdom in April.
I only ate three things, and they all happened to be sweet treats or desserts.

Treat #1 • Dole Whip Swirl

This first treat had been planned out since the moment I booked my Magic Kingdom reservation. I have always heard great things about the Dole Whip, I just thought it wasn’t really for me, since I love chocolate over fruity sweets. My original idea of this snack was more complicated than it actually is. In my mind it was some sort of pineapple drink float with soft serve on top.

The Dole Whip is basically soft serve ice cream and you get to choose whether you want Vanilla, Pineapple, or the swirl. For my first ever Dole Whip I went with the swirl, and that was the right choice. I think the mix of Pineapple and Vanilla is the perfect combination. The tartness of the Pineapple is toned down by the Vanilla flavor.

I ate this around noon for my breakfast, and it was a great breakfast. The soft serve is not too heavy of a snack. The weather was also perfect for a cool treat like this. The whole day was cool (in the 60s), so I wore my sweater, but the sun was shining so it was a little warm too.

I ate my Dole Whip and proceeded to visit one of my favorite shows in Walt Disney World, the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Treat #2 • Marshmallow Pop

After moving from land to land, I arrived in Fantasyland to visit Big Top Souvenirs, which also houses some baked goods. I came in searching for my favorite treat, but this is where I received some disappointing news.

When I asked for a Mickey Cake Pop, the cast member behind the counter notified me that they no longer existed. I saw a snack that sort of looked like a Mickey Cake Pop, so I asked for one. She told me it was like a rice krispie treat version of the Mickey Cake Pop, so I said, “Sure, why not.”

There was actually zero rice krispie inside of this new pop. Instead it was filled with pure Marshmallow fluff, which was better for me since a Mickey Cake Pop has Marshmallow fluff for the ears. Although it wasn’t the Cake Pop I had wanted, it was still pretty close in shape and satisfied part of my cake pop needs with marshmallow fluff.

Even though the Mickey Marshmallow Pop was not exactly what I came looking for, I would definitely get one again. This was a really tasty snack. I also know they have different shapes and versions of these that I will most likely try out in the future. Some may even feature different flavors.

Treat #3 • Mickey Cake Pop!

At this point I was on my way out of the park. I stopped at a few shops on Mainstreet USA to pick up some goodies on the way out (I have to use my Passholder discount whenever I visit Disney Parks, usually to get a new mug).

I also decided to stop at the Mainstreet Bakery to pick up some Goofy gummies. These are another favorite, but more of a take-home treat. I also got some Disney gummies for my nephews.

When I got to the cash register to pay for these treats, I also decided to take home a giant Mickey cookie since I was feeling a bit defeated about the missing out on my Mickey Cake Pop. At this moment I saw the cake pops, I asked the cashier, “Are those cake pops, or more marshmallow fluffs?” and he assured me that they were the cake pops I was looking for.

I had found them on my way out. I was so excited that I asked for one and I still took that giant cookie home, for all of my troubles. If you’ve ever had a cake pop at Starbucks, it’s sort of like that but there’s way more cake pop to it. Also, there’s the added Marshmallows for ears.
__

Since I hadn’t visited Magic Kingdom for over a year I just wanted to eat some sweet treats. I do plan on doing more food related posts in the future, and definitely some Epcot Food Festival posts as well. So, be on the lookout for those.

Stay tuned for more learnings, and hopefully I’ll be back at Walt Disney World soon to write about more Disney stuff. I still have one or two more posts to go from my April trip.

What are your favorite Magic Kingdom (or Disney) treats? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, telepathically, or any other way you’d like to reach out and tell me about it.

I Beat Amazon!

For the past several years, anytime someone has asked a friend, “Hey where can I buy one of those?” The answer has been, “I don’t know man, check Amazon.” Everything is cheaper on Amazon, you get FREE super fast shipping (especially since we are all Prime members now), and you don’t have to bother any live humans — you just click a few buttons and your stuff will arrive either later today, tomorrow or the day after (anything longer than that is not worth your time).

The other great thing about Amazon is if you don’t like something you ordered you can easily send it back. And, if they try to make you pay for the return shipping, you can just change your answer to, “it’s your fault, not mine, Amazon!” and now your return shipping is FREE.

Beating Amazon

So, how did I beat Amazon? Well, I have beaten them before in a different way, and I have shared that story, but here’s a quick refresher. I had ordered a Nintendo Wii U (on Cyber Monday), but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it or not. Next, I received a “lost in transit” message about that order, but it still somehow showed up to my door. So, I canceled my order and got to keep the Wii U for FREE. This is a totally different way of beating Amazon, and I’ve beaten them with “lost in transit” items a couple of times before. That just happened to be the biggest one.

This time I beat them on pricing. I was searching for a Kayak Captain’s hat (or straw hat). My sister has one that she always wear by Avid, so I first looked at those. When I asked her about her hat she told me that it had a tear and she had ordered a new one from a different brand, Hemlock Hat Co.

I was curious, so I checked out both Amazon and each hat makers site (Avid and Hemlock). Amazon has a terrible user interface (UI) when it comes to switching between versions of the same item — It opens a new page for each style/color, instead of simply changing the image. Because of this I stuck with online shopping on the Hemlock site, just to find the right model.

I found one I really liked and it was on sale. That’s when I stuck it in my cart. I went back to Amazon to check the price and the same style was almost fifteen freakin’ dollars more expensive. I thought that the difference may be added in shipping costs. Luckily, shipping was less than fifteen dollars ($9.00). In the end I purchased my hat from Hemlock’s website, and it came in a nice box with lots of cushion.

Some Cool Captain Kayak Photos

What We Learned

Not only did I beat Amazon’s price, or better yet Hemlock did, but I was happy to support the actual store and not give Amazon more money (we all give them enough money). Amazon is great for the consumer, but I don’t think it’s so great for the seller all the time. Sure, it gets their product out all over the world, but I’m pretty sure they take a big cut of sales. Plus, Amazon is always changing prices on everything and I’m sure when the prices go down it’s not great for the seller. 

Either way, whether you’re supporting Amazon or someone else, the world is full of a bunch of evil faceless corporations. So, does it really matter who you support? I guess when you can it feels better to support the smaller faceless business.

Using Disney Genie+

In the beginning of April, I visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the first time in over two years. This also happened to be my first time in the Magic Kingdom Post-FastPass, during the Pandemic and all by myself. It was sort of a “business trip” to gather some content for upcoming posts here on Ferdi’s Learnings — starting with this one.

I decided to pay the extra $15 to see what Disney Genie+ was all about.
Here’s what I learned:

Fast Pass vs Genie+ | Ride the Lightning

When I first heard of Disney Genie and Genie+ taking over for FastPass it just sounded like WDW was attempting to monetize their FastPasses.

For so many years FastPasses have been free, plus they were a way for Disney employees to make disgruntled guests happy:

Sorry, your Disney Hotel room isn’t ready? Congratulations! You just scored some extra FastPasses for your day at the park tomorrow.

The quality of your meal didn’t meet your expectations? Have a FastPass on us.

It was basically a way for Disney employees to fix any problem without losing any money.

There are two parts to the new Disney Genie service. The first (and FREE) part is more of a personal park concierge that plans out your day at the park, according to traffic and other changing factors.

The second part, Disney Genie+, is the paid version that gives you access to the new FastPass — now known as the Lightning Lane. Genie+ means shorter lines for Lightning Lane guests, but longer Standby lines for everyone else. I walked right onto my three Lightning Lane rides — Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear. I also noticed that many of the Standby lines (for popular rides) had long waits all day long.

Since I was only in the park for about half a day, 9:00 am to about 4:30 pm, I was only able to book two Lightning Lane reservations for myself — Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear. My third reservation was a gift — from a Magic Kingdom cast member.

SideQuest:
After talking to a Disney Guest Relations representative about renewing my Annual Pass and the Disney Genie+ service I now had a better understanding of the service. His advice was,
“If you want to do the most in one day at a Disney park, it’s best to pay for the Genie+ service and mix it up with waiting in standby lines while also using the lightning lane. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.”

My day was not spent finding that perfect balance. Instead I made my way from Land to Land, visiting some of them multiple times. I knew exactly what I was looking for, I just didn’t plan out my strategy beforehand. I found myself in Tomorrowland at least three separate times that day.

While Lightning Lane reservations only grant you an hour window to get to the attraction, a cast member gift pass lasts all day (single use) — from park open to close. That means I could have jumped onto the Jungle Cruise at any point in my day. I ended up going straight there since it happened to be right by where I had talked to that cast member.

I wouldn’t be surprised if WDW is encouraging cast members to give out these all-day (single use) Lightning Lane gift passes to guests trying out the Genie+ service for the first time. This will encourage us to pay for it over and over again.

How does Genie+ Work?

Back in the day, you were able to book up to three FastPasses per day, up to one month (maybe a little more) in advance. Once completing your three FastPasses, you were eligible to pick up some extra ones, if any were available.

With Genie+, guests are able to book one Lightning Lane pass every two hours. That means if you get into the park at opening (9am), you can pick your first pass and by 11AM you’ll be able to pick the next one. If you claim your first pass before the two hour mark, you may be able to pick your next one a little earlier. This gives the possibility of more opportunities for Lightning Lane as long as you start early and stay on top of it.

From what I saw, I believe that only one member of a party needs to purchase the Genie+ service. So, if I pay for Genie+, I could take a friend with me on my Lightning Lane rides. What I’m not sure of is, “What if two friends purchase Genie+? Can they end up picking up maybe 6-10 separate Lightning Lane rides and sharing them?”

My Genie+ Theory

Here’s how I believe this whole Genie thing got started. Let’s go back to before March 2020. Disney Parks had giant crowds almost every day of the year, up until parks, sports and everything had to shut down (for the first time in forever), right after Tom Hanks got COVID. Once Disney opened back up, they started off with a park reservation system to control crowds and cap the maximum number of park guests (in an attempt to not spread more COVID).

SideQuest 2:
I didn’t visit Disney Parks in the height of the pandemic, but even when I went in February of this year (2022), they were still doing a good job of enforcing the indoor mask mandate. Although when I went this time they were only enforcing mask wearing on the monorail and certain areas, but now that’s over. It’s back to the wild wild west like the rest of Florida.
(Thanks for being a big dumb COVID denier, Gov. Ronald Dion Desantis!)

Back to the reopening. The park reservation system was doing great, not only were they able to control crowds, they also had an idea of how busy or empty each park would on any given day. With all of this new data and info, (in this age of collecting data and info), WDW created this new digital concierge system “Disney Genie,” which could now give park guests recommendations for their big day at a Disney Park.

This also opened up the new possibility of changing up the “FastPass” system and making it a faster, paid system — The Lightning Lane!

Is Genie+ Worth it?

This all depends on your goals. How often do you visit Disney Parks? If you’re trying to do as many rides as you can (especially the most wanted ones), then you should probably pay the extra money for Genie+. You also need to be diligent and stay on top of it. Make sure your phone is charged and bring yourself an extra phone chargy bank.

Where it gets complicated is the “surge” pricing. For a Lightning Lane pass to ride the extremely popular rides, you may have to pay a premium of an extra $5-15 dollars (maybe more than that). The surge pricing is only for a handful of rides (brand new and very popular rides). Most rides are included within the original $15 upgrade.

As an Annual Passholder I don’t think I will purchase the Genie+ service for every visit to Disney Parks. For now, I may just save it for my next visit to Epcot, just so I can ride Remy’s Ratatouille Ride. Maybe I’ll purchase the pass for Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios.

Overall, I think it’s a good service and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Of course I did enjoy my “FREE” FastPasses from the before times. However, I do think they added some extra value with the concierge system, I just wish it was still FREE, or you could at least pick up a few FastPasses/Lightning Lane rides for FREE.

Now that I’ve renewed my Annual Pass I have to go back as many times as possible this year.

Ferdi’s Learnings 3.0

Back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, I launched Ferdi’s Learnings 2.0. I changed up the style and look of the site. I got back into posting a couple of times a month (sure, I planned on one or more posts a week, but things happen). I worked on my photo editing skills.

It is now 2022, and time for something new…

Ferdi’s Learnings 3.0 

What does that mean exactly? This year, I’m going to try all kinds of new stuff. This time it’s not about changing the look and feel, but instead it’s about adding more content.

A couple of weeks ago I added the “Events & Entertainment” category to the site, when I wrote about attending my first Live WWE event in over 20 years. And I will continue to add new “Events & Entertainment” posts (not just wrestling). In fact, I will be working on some later this week.

I plan to post more food stuff this year. Last year, I started my “Apples in Review” posts, where I was going to review every flavor of apple I could find. I did eat a bunch of apples last year, and have many photos of me eating apples now. I just quickly abandoned posting about apples. Yes, there are many different types of apples, but I learned that they mostly taste the same — or my apple palate isn’t very advanced.

Don’t worry, I will do something with those apple photos. Here are some pictures of me taking a bite out of some juicy apples…

I do however have a great love for “Sweets & Treats.” Hey! I think I just discovered another new category.

In the coming weeks I plan to start adding a few more, so stay tuned. For now, you can enjoy this post that talks about what I plan to do in the future. (This is what is called a filler post).

I will continue to write my regular learnings about dumb stuff I learn some weeks, but I’m also trying to grow. Aren’t we all? It’s important to continue to evolve. I’m not the same person I was seven or ten years ago when FerdingsLearnings began as a one off weekly post on a blog featuring a few of my Miami Ad School classmates.

Special shoutout to Wallace Cruz for creating this site as SCnA (Super Cool n’ Awesome people). And, for later handing it over to me for Ferdi’s Learnings when everyone else got too busy with their real work.

I will continue to write and post and explore and more just to make Wally proud!

Thanks, and see you real soon with some new stuff!

I Got the COVID

A few weeks ago, I posted about attending WWE Smackdown. The week after attending Smackdown, I tested positive for COVID-19. After not getting the official disease of the 2020 Pandemic ever before, I finally got it on the two year anniversary of the shutdown.

Let me start off by saying “Thank the gods for vaccines.” I didn’t feel great for those first couple of days (fever, chills, body aches, headache, cough…), but I might have felt much worse if it weren’t for my Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and Booster shot.

*Side Quest: If you haven’t got your vaccine or booster shot, maybe it’s time to make a change? This thing isn’t going away anytime soon.

Remember a time where we used to share air with strangers. We would sit in waiting rooms or on airplanes for hours at a time and just breathe the same air as people we didn’t know. Then COVID hit, and everything got weird. We don’t even want to share the same air with certain people we do know. Now we watch old movies and shows and think, Why isn’t anyone wearing a mask?

A valuable lesson I learned from having COVID is that you can have strangers do tasks for you, and not only will they gladly perform the task, they will also say,
“Thank you.”

I was told (by a doctor) to quarantine for 5-7 days from when I first became ill. I quarantined for 10+ days. I stayed out of stores, and places where the people were. When I had to ride in an elevator, I made sure it was empty.

More than once, I needed to pick up some drugs from the local pharmacy. Before driving over I called to let them know that I had tested positive for COVID. I asked if they could bring my medicine outside, so I wouldn’t have to go in the store and infect everyone — there’s no drive thru at this local pharmacy.

What caught me off guard was when the pharmacist paused after I had made my request and said, “Sure, and THANK YOU for that.” That moment was the closest I will ever come to knowing what it feels like for a veteran when someone says, “Thank you for your service.” That moment and when I finally picked up the medicine and the other pharmacist also thanked me for my service.

Not only was I doing the “right thing,” but I was being recognized for it. It was a nice feeling that I don’t get to experience very often. My next thought was should I start ordering food to pick up on the sidewalk just to be thanked again? I didn’t do it.


Me giving Roman Reigns (aka the Tribal Chief) the thumbs down, while he’s smiling because his dirty dum dum fans are giving me the COVID. Also, my buddy Shaun next to me, not getting COVID.

I’m now COVID free and ready to do stuff again, with my mask on of course. I did wear my mask to WWE Smackdown, but I also had one beer. And I’m sure that pulling my mask on and off at the beginning to enjoy that beer was how the COVID got in me. Also, being around a bunch of maskless dum dum Roman Reigns fans didn’t help.

*There’s no scientific proof that I picked up COVID at WWE Smackdown, and I would still go to Smackdown (and RAW) in the future. It just happened to be the most crowded place I visited that week.