1. Flashmobbing can be indeed organized with a few days notice (like, two) and two hours of practice.

2. When following the directions of flashmobbers, it will often feel as if Google Maps is your best friend. Or even your only friend.

3. As is shade. Shade is good. Shade is very good. What happened to Florida this April? I miss you, delightful Florida Aprils! Oh, wait. This is supposed to be about flashmobbing not weather. Back to that.

4. Astonishingly, about one third of the people who show up will claim to have never flash mobbed before. About half of them will claim to be unable to dance.

5. You will wonder just how this is going to work.

6. As it turns out, this works by choreographing a dance specifically for people who can't dance. Also, fist pumping.

7. As it also turns out, thanks to this, people who are not, in fact, professional dancers can, in fact, do flash mobbing on a regular basis – say, at least once or twice a week.

8. Which also means that Orlando and Tampa are the sorts of cities that host flash mobs at least once or twice a week.

9. Orlando and Tampa may be a bit weird.

10. You can, as it turns out, fist pump and air guitar from the wheelchair.

11. Hiding in the back corner will not prevent people doing what is apparently meant to be a King Tut dance move from King Tutting right into your wheelchair.

12. You will be told that the one thing you never, ever do as part of a flash mob is call it a flash mob.

13. You will then decide that you are calling it a flash mob anyway.

14. First grade teachers join flash mobs to get out their frustrations. "At a certain point you need more than crayons."

15. Since everyone has to type things into tiny, tiny, keyboards, it will take a surprisingly long time to tell everyone where the flash mob is actually going.

16. "Everybody knows this Hilton, right?" "It's the one across from downtown Disney!" "Right!"

17. That will turn out to be wrong.

18. Orlando has far too many Hiltons, even if the first Hilton you head to turns out not to be a Hilton.

19. The second Hilton is, in fact, a Hilton, but is not the Hilton you are looking for.
20. Google Maps is your friend.

21. Parking garages are not your friend.

22. This particular Hilton will turn out to have not only a convention center and a splendid view over a championship golf course but also a lazy river and 24 hour chocolate.

23. You will realize that certain things have been missing from your life: namely, lazy rivers and 24 hour chocolate.

24. What high powered, wealthy attorneys call "business casual" and what the rest of us call "business casual" are two entirely different things.

25. You can be in "business casual" and feel terribly, terribly, underdressed.

26. Until you see some people in Mickey Mouse hats and gloves and cheer up.

27. All of the planning that goes into a flash mob can be destroyed in a second when the flash mob realizes that the area they can flash mob in is considerably smaller than the already not large rehearsal area.

28. It is nearly impossible to have a casual conversation about not having enough space for a surprise flash mob without letting the audience know that a flash mob is coming.

29. Hint: if part of your flash mob experience includes having to put on bright orange sunglasses, make sure that you have not placed your bright orange sunglasses into a bag with a zipper that more than occasionally gets stuck. Otherwise the sounds of "WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL!" will boom out and you, rather than fist pumping, will find yourself wishing you had indeed bought a second bag with a working zipper from Target.

30. You can fist pump while putting on bright orange sunglasses.

31. Conga lines are much more difficult in a crowded room full of attorneys. They are much much much more difficult in a wheelchair in a crowded room full of attorneys.

32. A surprising number of people will want a picture of the group afterwards. You, however, will want chocolate. Because.
Results for yesterday's oystering trip to the Mosquito Lagoon:

1. Number of living oysters over three inches the finding of which was the main point of the trip: 0.

2. Number of empty oyster shells: Enough to start forming their own small barrier island.

3. Number of hermit crabs who had happily stolen someone else's shell and were now trotting off with it: 2.

4. Number of mullet splashing "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I SHINE SO MUCH IN THE SUN"" Eye-watering.

5. Number of dolphins spotted: two.

6. Number of dolphins who were just happily splashing away and minding their own business until a speedboat showed up: Also, not by coincidence, two.

7. Number of boats at what is reportedly a not particularly boat dock in the middle of nowhere on the Mosquito Lagoon: Lots and lots and lots.

8. Number of manatees: 24 (approximately; also the two I spotted when we returned might have been among the same ones we spotted initially going out)

9. Number of pelicans: 0 (That was surprising.)

10. Number of sting rays: 1

11. Number of boats saying, "What, US pay attention to Manatee Idle Speed No Wake signs? Are you kidding me? It's called a SPEEDBOAT for a REASON!": 1

12. Number of kayakers forced to follow Manatee Idle Speed No Wake signs by default: 18

13. Number of dogs unable for a moment to figure out what boat exactly they are supposed to be getting on because PEOPLE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE and LOOK THAT BOAT IS ALSO AWESOME and I LOVE EVERYBDOY WOW THIS DAY IS THE BESTEST DAY EVER: 1

14. Number of teenagers who never learned how to swim complaining that the lifejacket a parent was ordering to be put on was "butt ugly": 1.

(I wore one too since we were in a motorized canoe, but apparently my example wasn't very inspiring.)

15. Number of times I was unable to identify a particular fish: This is humiliating. Let's not go there.

(Though, alas, we did not actually see that many fish, even with the occasional mullet leaping into the air, which is moderately odd since we were not that far off from the enforced no-take zone at Cape Canaveral. Then again the water wasn't always that clear.)

16. Number of seals spotted on a previous trip when no one who particularly cared about seals was anywhere around: "Large group."

17. Number of seals spotted on this trip when someone who loves seals (me!) was around: Exactly 0.

18. Number of herons flying softly over the water: Just enough to justify every moment of the trip, whatever happened with the oysters.

I haven't had a chance to look at the pictures I attempted to take yet, but if any came out I'll post them up here. (Don't count on manatee pictures; both the camera and the manatees were not cooperating at all.)
As I've previously mentioned, the ICFA conference is, in theory, a conference where academics and writers involved in the arts of the fantastic mingle and engage in scholarly conversation, readings, and paper presentations. I say "in theory" because my part of this is to hang out at the bar or the pool and discuss, in rather less academic fashion, such Important Matters as Hard Cider, the Perfect Party Dress (with pockets!), and why the Blurays for Game of Thrones remain priced so high even for academics and writers involved in the arts of the fantastic and will HBO EVER open its HBO Go service to non-cable subscribers?

This year was no different. The only real difference was that I spent Thursday and Friday nights at the IAFA hotel (kinda ruing this when I was sick Friday and Saturday mornings, which kinda felt like a total waste of spending money on a hotel) and that I ate a lot more cheese. (Cheese is good.) So I felt a bit more like I was part of the conference, even though I did even less of it than I usually do, and though I was pretty certainly the only person at the conference also following a golf tournament. (In actual fact most of the other attendees didn't even know about the golf tournament.) Various highlights, in no particular order, especially not in the order of events:

Neil Gaiman's Whiskey! Shoes! Gators! Tornados! )
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission offering cash prizes to those who bring in the most dead pythons. If you are interested, it costs $25 to go hunt pythons in the Everglades, plus a half hour video. Cost of guns and ammunition not included.

On the bright side, this is the dry season in the Everglades.
Yikes. Did I really let over a week go by before posting about this? Yes, yes, I did. In my defense...no, I really don't have anything to say there. Onwards.

So, yes, my brother and I headed out to the Wekiva River a couple of weekends back, to take advantage of the very few remaining sorta cool mornings before it becomes too hot to move (like, say, not at random, today). I even got on a canoe with an electric motor. In general, I am not a boat person these days -- one movement from side to side, and I am not very happy -- but if you can promise me that the boat won't be moving very much, and barely from side to side at all, this can be a good thing. The Wekiva, a flat, slow moving river that meanders from freshwater springs out to the St. John's River, is that sort of river.

As always, my camera took one look at the river and said, wait, we're outdoors? I hate you. It grumbled about the light all the way down river and on the way back, when the light absolutely could not have been more ideal, announced that it really didn't have batteries. (This was a lie.) So, my pictures, not exactly good, but here they are.

Cut for large pictures )
Wednesday my parents and I headed off to Tarpon Springs, Florida, at one point one of Florida's major tourist destinations. These days other places have greatly surpassed it in popularity -- in part because, as I discovered to my sorrow, Tarpon Springs might be quite close to the Gulf of Mexico -- on it, even -- but from the marina/sponge dock area, you can't see the Gulf unless you go out on a boat, although you can see mangroves. And boats filled with sponges.

Also, I got sick on the way there, which meant I spent most of the trip there, and all of the trip back, prone, which meant I didn't see much of Florida on the way there or back, and most of my pictures did not come out in the slightest. But here are some:

Cut for large images. )

Gulp

Jan. 16th, 2012 08:38 am
My brother and I have been idly chatting about going to see this.

Or, now, maybe not.

A sharp reminder of how swiftly things can change, even things that have lasted a thousand years.

(Another very old tree is in the area, which might be worth a visit and some reassurance.)

Edit: The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed that the 3500 year old Senator, as of yesterday one of the oldest trees in the world, has collapsed from fire as of this morning.

Edit 2: State officials are now saying that the cause of the fire was probably arson (accidental from a fire started by a homeless person to stay warm -- as I noted, it was cold last night -- or deliberate.)

Legoland!

Jan. 9th, 2012 01:29 pm
So I spent part of Sunday watching a large pirate on water skies get chased by a plastic whale.

I had a reason for this.

Legos.

I have always wanted to go to Legoland. Legos filled our lives when we lived in Italy. My brother had the Lego Train, with Lego tracks that we ran under his bed to make a tunnel as the train dashed from Lego City to Lego Town to Legoville. (I may have mentioned that naming things = not my strong point.) We also had Lego Space which occasionally sent down messages to Legoville which generally sparked wars between Lego City and Legoville which no train could halt, especially once stuffed animals were involved. (Important life lesson: if you ever need to stop a Lego train, throw a stuffed dinosaur on its tracks. Works every time until the other sibling runs and gets the dinosaur and throws it, which entirely changes the tempo of the game, but that's another story.)

And someplace, I knew, in the not so distant place called Denmark, stood Legoland. I saw pictures, and it was clearly a marvel – a whole place with little buildings made entirely from Legos. I wanted to go. I desperately wanted to go. But for whatever reason we never made it to Denmark in all our years in Italy (and we probably would have been taken to Educational Things in Copenhagen anyway, coupled with a brief stop at the Little Mermaid.)

Years later, I made it to Denmark. My feet twitched. My hands twitched. Legoland. But I was on an incredibly, incredibly strict budget not helped by getting robbed by an American tourist earlier on the trip, and Legoland was expensive, and –

And I was afraid that it was not going to live up to those childhood dreams. (A guy I met in Copenhagen was decidedly not encouraging.) So I mucked around in Copenhagen for a bit, then headed to Sweden instead, stayed one horrifically expensive night, headed back to Copenhagen...

...twitched more –

And headed to Brussels.

I regretted it the instant I stepped off the train in Brussels. (To be fair, this was because I had, for a number of reasons, a horrible time in Brussels – it was the low point of the entire trip.) I'll go back, I told myself. I'll go back to Denmark.

And yet I never did.

I've travelled extensively since, generally by accident, to various continents and countries and cities and places – part of my twitchy feeling now is that my travelling has slowed down so drastically – but never to Denmark, keeping Legoland always twitching in the back of my mind.

Enter Cypress Gardens.

Cypress Gardens, for those of you who may not remember it, was one of Florida's first theme parks, of sorts, founded in the 1930s and featuring botanical gardens, Southern Belles and water skiing. This did well until the advent of Disney. Unfortunately, Cypress Gardens was a solid 45 minutes away from Disney, and unlike Tampa Bay/Busch Gardens, it did not have the benefit of having a large city like Tampa nearby to provide a steady source of visitors. And, it was located off of US 27, better known to many people as "not one of Florida's more attractive roads" (although US 27 is home to one of Florida's other once-glorious attractions, the Citrus Tower. There's another story with that, but it can wait.) US 27 is best known to us as "that highway where your grandfather fell into a canal" so you can see the fun that awaits you, and that's on a nicer bit of US 27. I kept thinking that I really ought to go and check the place out – and yet I never did. Most of Florida apparently felt the same way.

Cypress Gardens slowly and majestically inclined. In 2004, a group of investors made a heroic attempt to transform the park into an Adventure Park, only to be slammed by the seemingly unending series of hurricanes that hit Florida that year (Charley, Frances, Jeanne.) It finally reopened briefly, to the response of, uh, that's a lot of money for us to drive all the way out there, and a lot of ehs, to the rides. (It didn't help that getting there from Miami/Fort Lauderdale meant a major detour either on the way to or back to Disney, and that's without worrying about the falling into a canal part. A couple years ago, the investors gave up – sadly, more or less at the same time that Florida finally realized that really, something ought to be done about this US 27 deal.

Enter Legoland.

Apparently, Legoland had been hoping to enter central Florida for some time, and was just looking for a nicely failed place to buy up. They purchased Cypress Gardens, agreeing to preserve most of its garden bits, and just add in Legos and rides. (Some of the old rides from the Adventure Park days were kept.) It opened in October 2011.

I'm going, I thought.

But not immediately. I don't handle crowds well these days, and it's a solid hour drive from here – which meant I would already be tired once we arrived, which does not help with the crowds. But the second weekend in January is not exactly high tourist season at the theme parks, and so, despite reports that the park had filled to capacity a couple of times between Christmas and New Year's, we headed down Sunday, armed with Gatorade and my scooter.

We didn't take US 27 down – we headed down another road, with more miles, but more lakes and fewer traffic lights; it takes about the same amount of time, which meant going through Lake Alfred, a town that has seen considerably better days, but still has lovely lakes, and Winter Haven, ditto, and then we were there.

Having gone through the park, I can say that if Legoland is going to last, it's either going to need more rides, or better rides, or just slightly lower prices. Currently, it's about $10 to $20 less than Disney/Universal/Sea World – but unlike those places, it's clearly a one day sort of thing, and the surrounding area does not exactly offer a number of places to stay or other things to do (aside from Bok Towers and that ghost road thingy which makes your car go "uphill", which turns out to be a solid 45 minutes away from Legoland anyway), and as I've noted, it's a solid 45 minutes away from Disney and a good hour from Universal and further from the rest of Orlando – and a solid hour from Tampa. None of the roller coasters come anywhere near matching what Tampa Bay/Busch Gardens or Universal has to offer; the King Tut ride is a decidedly lesser version of the two Disney equivalents (I cracked up) and so on.

And it also needs to work on its merchandise. I came prepared to resist temptation, and as it turned out, I really didn't have to resist much. It's a problem when my local Target, not exactly a Lego destination, offers a better selection of both Lego Star Wars and Lego Harry Potter. It's an even worse problem given that Downtown Disney still has the large, elaborate Lego store with a considerably better selection of items.

But, for its targeted age group – six year olds and inner six year olds – it's awesome.

And I have to say, aside from a sad accident with a latte early on and the decision of my camera to turn from a cheap camera into a cheap, temperamental camera that couldn't decide if it was on or off –

Yeah, awesome.

Plus, a Lego pirate on water skies chased by a plastic whale. There's a lot to be said for that.

Pictures follow in the next posts.
So I finally managed to get a look at the pictures I took during last week's mini expedition to Paynes Prairie. In the process I found this:

Cut for large images. )
I maintain all of this happened because we started Thanksgiving too early. Thanksgiving should not start unti at least 10 am. It is known. Anyway.

1. Day before: [profile] tgregoryt, who should know better by now, warns me of the morning start. Despite this, spend time making the vegetable dish that my mother has insisted on, using my genius for creating unhealthy foods to transform spinach into the single most high calorie, high fat, high cholesterol food at the table. While making dish, discover that the eggs are utterly possessed and refusing to do what eggs are supposed to do. Blame [profile] anaisis who had the identical problem earlier this week and has clearly cursed my eggs in revenge. Take comfort in my two types of gleaming, beautiful homemade cranberry sauce which will save my culinary reputation.

2. Wake up at an unholy hour for Thanksgiving and gather things into the car while playing my happy version of Dona Nobis Pacem.

3. My custard is leaking. This cannot bode well.

4. The leaking custards bode quite well for two cats who suddenly decide that they love and adore custard and should absolutely, positively have lots of it and cry when I insist on cleaning the custard from the floor. (I'm weird that way.)

5. Finally get leaky custard, scooter, sweet potatoes, wine, materials for pies, tennis rackets, tennis balls, and board games into car and pick up SD. Notice something missing from that list?

6. Two miles later, hear the happy sound of flashing sirens.

7. Pull over. Cop asks for registration, insurance and – in an alarming touch – for both [profile] tgregoryt's and SD's drivers licenses.

8. Sit. And sit. And then, for a change, sit.

9. Cop returns. Apparently, the state of Florida suspended [profile] tgregoryt's driver's license three days before, naturally, not bothering to inform him of this exciting little detail. Further inquiries show that his license was suspended for failure to pay a ticket in New Mexico, which, as it turns out, according to his credit union, he did, in fact, pay. In Florida, facts are messy things, and he is given a December court date and wished a very happy holiday.

10. Ah, the joy of Thanksgiving.

11. So now we have three people in a stick shift car, only one with a valid license. Naturally, that one would be the one with the least experience with driving stick. Question whether or not the cop would actually check my license and decide that now isn't the time to risk that.

12. SD starts driving the car, with a twist – the last time he drove a stick shift was back in India, where, of course, the steering wheel and the gear shift are on the other side, so he keeps trying to use his left hand to shift a non existent gear shift.

13. Return to the apartment. Move leaky custard, scooter, sweet potatoes, wine, materials for pies, tennis rackets, tennis balls, and board games into SD's car. Still fail to notice something missing from that list.

14. Evveeeeennnntttuuuaaaallllyyyyy arrive at my mother's, where we realize that we have forgotten the two types of cranberry sauce that will restore my culinary reputation. I let other people begin the great cooking while I lie down, lots.

15. My mother, a very, very enthusiastic football fan (she watches high school, college and pro) decides to start teaching SD the intricacies of football rules. I surprise everyone by making not one, but two correct statements regarding pro football. (Do not be alarmed, my readers: this sudden knowledge is, I assure you, an aberration.) I decide to lie down lots more.

16. [profile] gargoylerose and [profile] chattycatsmeow arrive for dinner. The menu: turkey, Amish stuffing, mashed potatoes with cheese, curried sweet potatoes, spinach strata, roasted potatoes and figs, and cranberry sauce from a jar, not from the two types of cranberry sauce.

17. This is far, far too much food for six people. All of it, however, is excellent.

18. Everyone does, however, decide that we could just possibly make room for dessert. Overall, despite the morning excitement, a most excellent Thanksgiving.

19. Eventually leave to discover that between our arrival and now, winter has arrived. COLD.

20. Collapse in bed. After moment of indecision, two small cats decide that it is too cold to hold grudges over the cruel removal of custard from little cats and the even crueler abandonment and failure to feed them turkey, and crawl beneath the covers.

21. This is a lot of cranberry sauce.
So, while I wait for the space shuttle to go or not go off, I am reminded that I failed to post the link to this article from the weekend with the cheery title, "Chihuahua with earrings stolen at gay bar; Police Seek Man With Britney Spears Tattoo."

I really feel I have nothing to add to that. Except to note that I was not even remotely surprised to click through and see that the incident occurred in Wilton Manors, and I suspect a good half of my readers will share my lack of surprise here.

Rain...

May. 20th, 2009 04:23 pm
Just as an addendum to my last post: Winter Garden has received 9.76 inches of rain since Monday...and it's still pouring.

Ah, Florida, where one week you're braced for UNSTOPPABLE WILDFIRES and the next week merrily flooding.

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