Tourist at Seaworld yesterday: "Whales don't have bones." (Turning to Seaworld staffer.) "Right?"

Seaworld staffer, who has unquestionably heard much worse over the months, patiently: "No, they have bones -- several large bones in their rib cage, for instance."

#

So, yes, yesterday I was at Seaworld with my mother, which meant an overload of dolphins and sea lions and orca and criminally minded egrets and so on. The Seaworld part was all good, and I was pleased to see that Seaworld is now edging away from its recent years of "what, us, animals? No, WE ARE THRILL RIDES," back to a more animal focus. The new Turtle Trek uses the same manatee tanks but has added a second tank for sea turtles and colorful tropical fish, with underwater and above water viewing; the underwater orca viewing has reopened, and I now have tentative and cautious hopes for the upcoming penguin exhibit, even if said exhibit currently made it rather difficult to see the best things at Seaworld, the sea lions and the harbour seals. (What?) Also cake and ice cream became involved, entirely by accident, my mother and I both mutually assure you. And I was able to replace a coffee mug. So all good.

Slightly less good were certain incidents on the way there and back, some of which were my fault entirely (the cell phone fiasco, wherein a certain fantasy writer forgot that cell phones can't actually be charged by magic) and more alarming, problems with my mobility scooter. I am hoping that these can be repaired cheaply; otherwise, it's time to look at replacing it, which is making me shrink inside. Grr.
The great and long awaited (well, maybe not that great or long awaited) Freddy the Pig reread is a go! Also, if you missed it, and you might have since I didn't mention it here, Tor.com earlier printed my response to an essay in the Atlantic which in turn was a response to an essay in the New York Times which in turn was a response to the Hunger Games which in turn was a response to a lot of things. We're a responsive bunch.

However I may also be a quiet bunch today -- a bit tuckered out from yesterday's trip to SeaWorld and a bit headachy already after the fun of loud power drills across the street this morning as the city continues to work on the issues of getting us water and taking it away, along with a few other nagging issues. Then again, the drills seem to have temporarily quieted. Maybe this means they will go away. Let's hope.
I thought about writing a year end summary, but figured I hadn't even really talked about December yet. So, lessons learned in December:

1. Butterbeer is indeed foamy, sweet, delicious, and, to be truthful, just a teensy bit nauseating. Or more than a teensy bit nauseating.

2. Hogwarts can be explored in many ways. Some of these ways have elevators. Some of these ways lead you through the final store. Some of these ways involve lengthy communication with team leaders and discussions of just exactly where the damn Universal parking lot is and why is it unlikely that any wheelchair user barring a marathon trained one is overly likely to be able to manage getting a manual wheelchair from the damn parking lot to Hogwarts. Suggestions, again, that Universal consider a) moving its disabled parking, b) expanding its disabled parking, c) telling its parking attendants where the disabled parking is so that people do not go round and round and round lakes and find themselves going through the entire parking lot AGAIN.

3. You can, indeed, spend considerably more time in December contemplating disabled parking than you had ever wanted or wished to.

4. Four people can attend Gatorland and have a very different idea of it. Possibly because two of the people sat on gators; three of the people bought fudge, and only one person (to my knowledge) got mad at the bathrooms.

5. Alligators, are not, for the most part, the cutest creatures on earth. Baby alligators, however, are still remarkably adorable, even knowing that they will happily remove your fingers.

6. One issue with living in Florida too long, and spending extensive time in the Everglades, is that the response to a 16 foot and very fat gator is, oh, whatever.

7. The fudge at Gatorland is, hands down, the best fudge at any theme park in Florida, bar none, hands down.

8. I can on occasion be repetitive and wordy.

9. Some of you are doubtless thinking we all learned lesson 8 well before this December.

10. Sea lions are awesomely cute, even when you are hearing a story about how one of them nearly ripped the head off a fellow sea lion leaving him with a bloody and kinda bare scalp. And by awesomely cute, I mean, dangerously awesomely cute.

11. Dolphins are best appreciated under the influence of fudge. And coffee. And coffee and fudge. I think you get where I'm going with this.

12. A restaurant can be perfectly adequate and even enjoyable until you take relatives there, hoping they will enjoy themselves.

13. Waiters who are unable to talk will also find it difficult to deliver correct orders.

14. This sort of combination will lead to skipping any form of tiramisu and heading right on to the Coldstone Creamery. Which, all in all, is not an entirely bad thing.

15. The Sanaa restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually an interesting way to see Animal Kingdom without venturing into it; animals wander by, people bang drums, plus, creative and wildly exciting booze.

16. We, as humans, can design amazingly entertaining and even artistic electrical fences.

17. A woman from the Philadelphia can go to great lengths to try to convince a British magician that she is not, absolutely not, anything like anyone on the Jersey Shore, whatever her accent, while wearing high heeled boots, fishnets and a miniskirt that barely, but barely, covers her butt.

18. Some Americans are, alas, unable to distinguish between images of Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Liberty.

19. It is not as easy as you might think to perform card sharks for an extremely drunk man, also from Philadelphia, and also, absolutely, and completely, not like anyone on the Jersey Shore, however much said drunken man may be appear to be impersonating several of the cast members of the Jersey Shore.

20. The combination of drunkenness, miniskirts and questionable assumptions about the British Royal Family will send even the most warmth-loving British magician out to do card tricks in the cold.

21. From [profile] fizzgig_bites and myself: the word of the staff at the Big River Grille & Dining Works at Disney's Boardwalk is not to be trusted in pretty much anything. Except perhaps the beer. Which we didn't order.

22. Fireworks.

Ok, that wasn't a lesson, exactly, more a moment to be savored—it was a pretty amazing show. Hmm. Lesson. I like fireworks, although again, we all kinda knew that one already.

23. It is, indeed, possible to back out of an elevator only to confront a clown.

24. The longer spiced apple cider simmers, the better it tastes. If you are clever, you can conceal this as a cooking technique. If you are not, everyone will yell at you for concealing the spiced apple cider from everyone.

25. A clown can throw a light at a child, and steal it back again.

26. An egret directly outside your window can end up being a rather aggravating experience, especially if the egret is also aggravated.

27. You can spend several minutes trying to sum up visits from friends before realizing that you actually can't, and should have spent this time eating chocolate or baking brie instead.

28. You can spend much of the month barely discussing either of the three most lifechanging things that happened in it.

29. Your very best holiday present may come from a very unexpected place, and may actually end up getting delivered in March.

(Traditional publication/writing summary for the year probably coming up soon. Probably.)

(And as I was typing this out, last lesson: my cats are really never going to get used to fireworks, are they?)
In non- entertainment news, last weekend, [profile] gargoylerose and I took a brief trip to SeaWorld, heading to the new Reef and Stingray exhibit. It works somewhat like this:

Tourists ENTER the DARK and FORBIDDING looking area with its CURVING FAKE STONE walls made of concrete, heading to a tank that mixes Atlantic and Pacific corals and fish, a large and impressive stingray tank, a tank with various and completely unlabeled invertebrate critters, a tank with somewhat labeled sea dragons, a second tank with more completely unlabeled invertebrate critters, a tank where you can have your picture taken so it looks as if your head is stuck in the aquarium – which happens to be completely inaccessible to kids in wheelchairs – and the other side of the fish/stingray tank.

Tourists: Oh, thank god. Air conditioning!

Less overheated tourists: Oooh, spooky! Ghosts!

Kids: LOOK! SOMETHING STUCK TO THE TANK! WHAT IS IT!

Parents, forgetting that the new purpose of SeaWorld is Pure Entertainment, LOOK around desperately for ANY information about the critters in the tank, and find absolutely nothing.

Me, wearily: Anemone.

Parents: What?

Kids: LOOK! MOMMY! DADDY! AUNT LUCY! ANOTHER TANK AND SOMETHING ELSE STUCK TO THE TANK! WHAT IS IT!

Parents: Er.

Me, wearily: Sea urchin.

Kids continue to SHRIEK, unhappy that no one can tell them what anything is, and speculate at high volumes. Sound continues to ECHO through the area, AGGRAVATED by MYSTERIOUS MOOD MUSIC.

Yesterday, [profile] tgregoryt, his friend A and I headed to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, which works somewhat like this:

Excited child: WHAT'S THAT???

Parent, quickly reading wall: Anemone!

Excited child: SILENTLY STARES IN AWE.

Me: Yay.

Not surprisingly I did much better at the Florida Aquarium.

Sea World's new exhibit isn't all bad – the section where you can stand directly under stingrays is quite lovely. But I couldn't help remembering the reef exhibit that had been there previously – mostly demolished to make way for the new roller coaster. It was a rather nice exhibit of various coral reef fishes and other habitats, and if not precisely highly educational it at least gave some basic information about what was in the tanks. And it always seemed filled with people – although to be fair that was doubtless in part because of the air conditioning. And yet, it was relatively quiet.

I've noticed the same dumbing down at Epcot's The Living Seas, presumably because someone somewhere figured that people come to amusement parks for entertainment, not education. That assumption isn't entirely incorrect, especially here, where the main attractions are roller coasters. But one of the main things that used to distinguish Sea World from Disney and Universal was the focus on the animals instead of thrills. And, from my observation, removing very basic identification signs actually lessens the enjoyment of some people – specifically families with curious children. It most certainly greatly increases the volume – which in turn made me incredibly dizzy.

But anyway. Watching dolphins leap around cheered me up, as always, as did the seals and the sea lions. (I love seals and sea lions.)

More about the Florida Aquarium in the next post. And pictures!

December 2014

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