Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum & Raptor Free Flight

This is a little outside of the normal sort of things I post, but I recently got a new camera, and on my day off for Presidents Day I went to our local museum/zoo and took some video, and I thought I’d share.  Watch at least through the middle of the video, to see some cool footage of various raptors in flight, as part of a daily show at which my wife works.

New Look for the Ship’s Log

I’m trying out a new look for my blog.  The header image is one I took this weekend at our local Fox Theater.  It was built in the 1920s and restored in the 2000s, that image is of the ceiling inside the theater.  Anyway, I thought it was time for a change.  Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions.  Thanks!

The end of a decade!

In just a few short weeks we will start a new decade. This of course has everyone looking back on the previous decade, the 2000s. 10 years ago I was 15, a sophomore in high school. Now I’m 25, a college graduate, married, and I have a beard. I could easily write about the events in my life over the past 10 years, but that’s a pretty straightforward story. I could write about the many events of the past 10 years; 9/11, two new wars, Katrina, 4/16/2007, eight years of the worst president this country’s ever seen, the splintering of America along any number of lines (political, religious, racial, social, economic) and the general loss of civility, and any other number of fascinating moments of the past decade. Continue reading

More to come…

I want to get back into posting and writing a lot.  So tonight I think I’ll post a short story I wrote freshman year of college, based on an encounter I had over spring break of that year.  I also plan to post my usual Oscar predictions, as well as a wrap-up of 2009’s movies and some reviews of films I particularly enjoyed.  So stay tuned…

Merry Christmas

It’s been a long year for all of us, and many don’t know what lies ahead in the year to come.  But today we focus on Christmas, and remember the important things.

It Feels Like Christmas

It’s in the singing of a street corner choir
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire
It’s true wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

A cup of kindness that we share with another
A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
In all the places you find love
It feels like Christmas

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It’s in the giving of a gift to another
A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
It’s all the ways that we show love
That feel like Christmas

A part of childhood that we’ll always remember
It is the summer of the soul in December
Yes, when you do your best for love
It feels like Christmas

It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is make it last all year

It’s in the singing of a street corner choir
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire
It’s true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

It’s true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas
It feels like Christmas

64

An interesting thing happened last night (or a funny thing, depending on how you look at it). I have been cleaning my incredibly messy apartment the past few days because my parents are coming out this weekend, and will be staying in my apartment until Monday, when they will head up to Palm Springs for the week, before returning to my apartment the next weekend. I’m really excited about it, because I love my parents very much, and we’re also really good friends, and they’re my heroes. It’s just the way I was raised, being an only child, so I just love spending time with them. We’re all very alike and enjoy being together.

So anyway, I was cleaning off my desk and in particular I was organizing the pile of movie tickets that had accumulated on my desk. I save all my ticket stubs, and I place them all in one of those sticky-paper photo albums. So I was going through my tickets, and putting them in chronological order with the help of my Excel workbook that I use for cataloguing all the movies I’ve seen and the DVDs I own. I was having trouble with some of my ticket stubs, because the ones from my local Ultrastar Theater in El Centro had problems with the ink wearing off while in my wallet (where I used to display the most recent 16 stubs). I eventually stopped displaying them in my wallet for this very reason.

So I was going through, and struggling with trying to read the faded writing, and I came across one I couldn’t identify. I could read the date and time on the ticket but could not read the movie title. I checked my Excel sheet and I was shocked to find that I had no film listed for that date. After a few minutes I managed to decipher that it was the film Fearless, starring Jet Li, and I realized I had completely forgotten to log it on my computer. I was ecstatic because last year I set a new personal record by seeing 63 films in the theater. The addition of Fearless boosts that number to 64.

Yeah, Ginny laughed at how pathetic I am too. It’s ok, don’t feel bad. I’m happy, and that’s what matters. And Ginny thought it was cute… so ha!

Ordinary Heroes

Many people in this world are very cynical, and even I can be that way sometimes, in their view of the people who inhabit this planet and this country. Certainly there are plenty of examples of rude, thoughtless, indifferent, unaware people in this world. But whenever I think that there may be no hope left for humanity, there’s a week like this past on in New York. These three stories show me that I shouldn’t abandon my “Love Everybody!” motto.

Yesterday, two passers-by in the Bronx saw a 3 year old toddler dangling from a fourth-story fire escape, after wandering away from his babysitter. People nearby were screaming as they saw his grip start to slip. The two men rushed underneath and caught him before he could hit the ground. Heroes.

The day before that three police officers delivered a baby on a Brooklyn subway train. Heroes.

The day before that a man threw himself in front of a subway train to rescue someone who had fallen onto the tracks from the platform. The 50 year old Harlem construction worker and father of three jumped in front of an oncoming train to save a 19 year old film student who fell onto the tracks while having some kind of medical episode. He rolled the kid into a drainage trench and the train passed a mere inches over them. Hero.

Disney’s California Adventure Attractions

Disney’s California Adventure is the other park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. It opened in 2001 and attracted few visitors. Many criticized its “dull” theme and its focus on shops and restaurants as opposed to rides. My parents and I loved the park, however, finding it relaxing and interesting, and we enjoyed the high quality of the attractions.

Golden Zephyr
The first ride we rode was the Golden Zephyr. A calm, slow, swing-type ride, riders board small rockets, holding 12 people each, instead of individual state fair style swings. As with many of the rides at California Adventure, there was no line at all. This ride was not particularly exciting or interesting, though it was a nice moment to sit down, and offered a good view of the Paradise Pier section of the park.

Orange Stinger
The Orange Stinger is a classic state fair swing ride set inside a giant orange. It is modeled after the theme of bees flying around inside an orange (how do bees fly inside an orange?) and the sound of buzzing bees accompanies the ride (which is the only downside, apart from the annoying ride attendant encouraging everyone to scream). I’ve always been a big fan of swing rides, and my father and I rode this twice. As with many rides in the Paradise Pier section of the park, it offers a good view (out the openings in the orange) of both the entire area and of the nearby roller coaster. One word of caution: if you ever find yourself riding this ride when it is not full (as we did), be sure to guard yourself from having your knee demolished by an empty swing at the end of the ride.

Mulholland Madness
I had never ridden a Wild Mouse roller coaster before this trip, though I had often wanted to at fairs and other such places. Mulholland Madness (named after a famous street in LA) is an off-the-shelf Wild Mouse coaster, but I still found it very enjoyable. As with the above rides, there was nothing especially unique or Disney-esque about it, but it was fun.

Sun Wheel
We had to wait until day 2 to ride the Sun Wheel, an enormous Ferris wheel, because the line was too long on day 1. This was one of the more unique (and frightening) rides we encountered at California Adventure. Instead of each car swinging on a fixed pivot, like a normal Ferris wheel, each car was allowed to glide along a track fixed to the wheel. This track was oval shaped and allowed a fast (and sometimes rather rough) swinging motion during the ride. While fun and interesting, the ride was rather frightening due to its abrupt swings and its lack of seat restraints, forcing us to hold on so as to not fall out of our seats (each car was completely enclosed, to keep people from falling out of the ride). I am not sure I would ride this again, but I’m glad we rode it once, and it was by far the most exciting Ferris wheel I’ve ever ridden.

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue!
This “dark ride” replaced the most unsuccessful ride in Disney history, Superstar Limo, which was open for less than a year after the park first opened. The Monsters, Inc. ride was designed to use the same track and space as Superstar Limo, and basically takes the rider through various scenes from the movie. The animatronics are very realistic (due to the fact that this is one of the newest “dark rides” at any Disney park) and the scene with all the moving doors from the movie is especially creative. This ride is found in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the park, and is tucked in a corner where it is difficult to find. It was enjoyable but lacked the magic of the classic Disney “dark rides”.

Soarin’ Over California
Soarin’ Over California is probably the most successful rides at California Adventure, and as a result had the longest line. Soarin’ (which was recently copied at Epcot in Orlando, FL for Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth) is a simulator where riders hang from a vehicle resembling a giant hang-glider, which is in front of an OMNIMAX dome which shows aerial footage of various locations in California. The visuals, and the music by Jerry Goldsmith, are stunning, and the ride truly gives the sensation of flying. In addition to sight and sound, touch and smell are also incorporated into this ride, with gusts of wind timed to the video and scents matched to the locations. I wish the ride could move people through faster, so as to make the line shorter, but it is still worth the wait.
(Note: Among the locations the riders are flown over is the Anza-Borrego State Park, which is where my quarry is located.)

Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular
I’ve always been a bit wary of the short, live, musical versions of Disney animated movies found at every Disney park. I was somewhat surprised when my dad suggested that we step into this show, as it was about to start when we walked by. It was performed in a remarkably constructed theater which was very classy and elegant. The show told the entire story of the movie Aladdin, performing every song and a few new ones. The performer who played the Genie was one of the highlights, improvising and joking his way through the show. (A baby started crying at one point, while the Genie was talking to Jafar, and the Genie said, “You know, that baby’s crying because of you,” getting a huge laugh from the audience.) It is a testament to the power of the movie, when the “A Whole New World” scene, complete with an awesome flying carpet, got me as choked up as the scene in the movie does. Perhaps I should give some of the other “Musical Spectaculars” at other Disney parks a chance.

Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D
This classic 3D movie, copied from Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, is one of my favorite all-time attractions. I have seen it more times than I can remember, I know all the dialogue of both the actual show and the pre-show entertainment, and it can still make me laugh every time. Boasting a wonderful script, great performances, and innovative special effects, this is one of the best 3D attractions out there. Of particular note, Beaker and the Swedish Chef are hilarious as always, Bean Bunny is SO adorable, and Gonzo is classic (Sam the Eagle: “Will you stop this foolishness!”, Gonzo: “What foolishness would you like to see?”). I will always make a point of seeing this show whenever I have the chance. It should also be noted that this was the last time Jim Henson ever voiced Kermit the Frog (or the Swedish Chef or Waldorf) before he died.

California Screamin’
Of all the attractions at Disney’s California Adventure, California Screamin’ (a parody of the classic song “California Dreamin’”) was the most exciting and fun. California Screamin’ is a modern, steel roller coaster modeled after the classic style wooden roller coaster. The riders board the coaster, which proceeds down from the loading area to the lakefront (literally about 2 feet off the water) next to the pier where it stops. There is a countdown and then linear induction motors (think magnets) are used to rapidly accelerate the coaster (0-55 mph in 4.5 seconds) up the first hill and into the ride. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 61 mph, and travels a path reminiscent of a classic wooden coaster. The highlight of the ride is the single loop, which takes place right in front of a giant stylized Mickey ears designed into the coaster structure (you should see the picture my mom got of my father and I upside down, it is incredible, and if someone could help me figure out how to post a picture on to LJ, I’ll show it to everyone). This is a good coaster for anyone who might want to try a modern, fast coaster, but is afraid of loops and twists, since this only has one simple loop. This is by far on of the best coasters I have ever ridden, if not the best (Incredible Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando might be the best, it’s a tough call).