My Prime Directives

Several of the other Nano Poblano participants this month have posted entries which led me to respond with comments about the set of rules that I have taken to calling my Prime Directives. Yes, that’s a nod to Star Trek, because of course it is.

Obviously I have to obey certain rules and customs to get along in this world, like wearing clothing to the grocery store and so forth. “Thou shalt not give people involuntary haircuts.” Aside from the basics, I don’t have a lot of rules though.

Being an adult with no real requirements on my time besides work and basic existence means I can pretty much do my own thing, and that means I get to set my own rules for getting along in life.

That’s where my Prime Directives come in.

This may not be a complete list- sometimes I add or remove directives on the fly, as they occur to me. I might also have forgotten something as I write this up.

For this precise moment in time, at least, and in no particular order, this is my list of Prime Directives.

Rule the first: Be kind.

This means exactly what it says. I try to be kind to other people, and I hope very much that when most people think of me, they think of me as a kind person.

Sometimes I’m bad at this one. Very few people in this world have seen me truly angry, but those who have seen my anger know that I can be a spiteful, vindictive, cruel bastard. I have Bruce Banner’s problem. It’s always there, the rage, right under the surface. I try to negate that as much as possible by choosing to be kind whenever possible.

It seems like the thing to do.

Rule the second: Never eat anything bigger than your head.

This one is lifted from a 1976 B. Kliban book I read when I was a kid. When I was little, it was funny to me, but as I got older, I realized it’s actually really, really good advice. I have stomach issues, and eating too much is a trigger for Very Bad Things to happen to my digestion. Plus I could make some earnest noises here about moderation being good for you, I guess.

Rule the third: Share the music.

Music is life. Music is very often the one thing that truly saves what’s left of my sanity – if I don’t listen to it for too long, I get cranky. It calms me, reduces my anxiety, helps me concentrate, and elates me.

If I had to choose, right now, between a life without delicious food or a life without music, I would say “sign me up for the cream of wheat, and then let’s go to a concert.”

It’s precisely because I love music this much that I believe it’s important to share it. When I was in high school, I made mix tapes. Later in life, I made mix CDs. Even now, sometimes I’ll put together mixes to share with people- the method changes over time, but the goal is always the same: “Let me play this amazing song for you! I hope you love it as much as I do!”

Music is life. Sharing the music means sharing life. It’s that simple.

Rule the fourth: Embrace your whimsy.

I am a silly, silly man, and don’t you forget it.

My second favorite thing to do with other people, right after sharing music, is to make them laugh. I’ve said on numerous occasions that my resting state is whimsy, and I think that’s basically true. If I am drained of my other emotions, and free of anger or ennui or despair, then what remains is just pure unbridled whimsy.

Leaning into my own whimsy helps me keep things light. Embracing my inner Muppet keeps me balanced.

Rule the fifth: Never wait longer than 70 minutes for a theme park ride.

This one is just good common sense for logistical planning. No ride is worth standing in line for more than an hour and ten minutes when you’re surrounded by the entire rest of the theme park. Especially when the entire ride only lasts five or six minutes. Just go do something else instead of waiting in line. You’ll definitely have more fun that way.

A Questionable Rule the sixth: Nothing good happens after 2 AM.

While I never heard this one articulated until I was watching “How I Met Your Mother,” it’s an often true statement. I can think of many, many times that I’ve stayed up late on the off chance that something cool would happen, only to have nothing happen, or worse, to have bad things happen instead.

I marked this one as “questionable” because I can think of a handful of times that I’ve had really cool stuff happen well after 2 am. Only a handful, though. Most of the time, it’s just better to go to sleep.

Everyone says you should get enough sleep, right?

Rule the seventh: Family is important.

I am fortunate to have a fairly close-knit family. My siblings and I get along really well, despite all the times they’ve tried to kill me. This extends to more than just that first ring of family, too. Just last week, I had lunch with my cousin because she’s not far away and I enjoy her company. It’s important to me to try to nourish those relationships when I can. Speaking of which- Happy Birthday, Older Brother! (Even though I’m positive you’ll never see this blog post.)

Obviously this Directive doesn’t work for everyone- I have loads of friends who don’t speak to their birth family or have disowned parents or siblings over long and sustained pain. That’s why this isn’t just limited to families of blood. Families of choice are important too.

The people you choose to thread through your life are another kind of family. I have friends all over the world, and many of them are, in my estimation, a type of family. There are people in Germany who are dear to me, and people in Orlando, and people in Long Beach, or in New Orleans, or in South Florida.

Family is important, whether you grew up with them or added them on later in life.

Do you have any Prime Directives of your own?

42/52 (and 21 of 30!)


Hong Kong, Part 4 – Ocean Park

Author’s Note: This is one of five posts looking to the past, to my trip to Hong Kong in September of 2008. Some of the details may be a little fuzzy because it was twelve years ago.

On Sunday of the weekend in the middle of the trip, a small group of us got tickets to go to Ocean Park Hong Kong, a theme park on the southern side of Hong Kong Island. Ocean Park is the second-largest theme park in Hong Kong, right after Hong Kong Disneyland. In hindsight, I wish I’d chosen Hong Kong Disneyland for this day, but at the time I was thinking, “I can see Disney at home. I want to see something different and unique to Hong Kong.”

In that regard, I was not disappointed.

Ocean Park considers itself a marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park, and amusement park. It’s really got a little bit of everything.

I didn’t see many marine mammals, there, but I think there was an Orca show that we missed. Here’s a couple of seals.

Apropos of nothing, Ocean Park is home to the single most entertaining bathroom signage I have ever seen. If there’s a sign, you know people were doing it.

There was a jellyfish enclosure, with a lot of the little floaters swimming past.

They also had a panda enclosure, and the signs pointing the way to it were just absolutely freaking adorable.

The entrance to the panda enclosure was lined with these corny panda bears. No, I don’t know why. It sure is cute, though.

The pandas themselves were basically giant oreo-colored goobers. We saw one fall out of the tree he was climbing, because he just didn’t care.

I shall caption this next photo, “munch munch munch.”

There was a cable car connecting the two sides to this park. A lot of the park was under construction when we were there- looking at the Ocean Park site as it exists today, I can see that they’ve added a lot in the last twelve years. They have penguins and meerkats! (Thankfully, not in the same enclosure.)

I may need to go back at some point. In the years since we visited the heavily-under-construction Ocean Park, they have opened:

  • “Thrill Mountain” with five more rides, one of which is a floorless rollercoaster.
  • “Polar Adventure” which includes the penguins, as well as snowy owls and Arctic foxes.
  • “The Rainforest” with a river rapids ride, an expedition trail, and capybaras!
  • “Aqua City” expanded the aquarium out quite a lot and added a sea life carousel.
  • Probably a bunch more that I didn’t catch in my reading tonight.

The cable cars took us from the animals to the rides.

The crest of the cable car line had a pretty nice view.

And then we were able to see the theme park rides ahead of us.

Once we were off the cable car, we could wander a amusement park side, between snacks and rides and things for kids.

This was a culture show with acrobatics and the like.

There were the usual thrill rides. I actually did go on the old roller coaster, which has since been converted to a virtual reality coaster. No, I don’t know what that means either.

One of my favorite things at this entire park was the adorable squid vending kiosks.

…and the squid design isn’t just to be cute- they actually sell squid there. By the way, don’t let those prices throw you off- $32 Hong Kong dollars is just over four bucks of US currency. The combo with soft drink for $42 HK dollars is about five and a half US dollars. That exchange rate is crazy.

What’s your favorite theme park?

40/52 (and 19 of 30!)

Dinosaur World, Florida

On the way back from a thing in Tampa in April of 2017, I had the chance to stop in at Dinosaur World in Plant City.   I’ve been meaning to write about it since then, and I am just now getting around to it.  (I know it’s been more than a year.  Shut up, I’ve been busy!)

This wonderful and adorable little attraction is just off exit 17 of I-4, a little bit east of Tampa.  I thought it was one of a kind, but I have learned that there are three of these parks, all owned and operated by the same family.  The park is filled with life sized dino sculptures by a man named Christer Svensson.  (I keep wanting to call him Christopher, but the oph is truly silent.)

The park itself is not terribly expensive, and it won’t take up more than a few hours of your day.  Even from the highway and parking lot, the dinosaurs are visible.

This next picture was actually taken inside the restroom.  I was super entertained that they even themed the bathrooms.

Wherever there are dinosaur sculptures, there are also educational signs explaining what you’re looking at.

::cute the Jurassic Park theme music::

Some of the dino sculptures are just freaking adorable.  There’s a mom-sized one to the left of this little fellow.

The walkways throughout the park are very nicely maintained, and there’s lots of shade.  It’s actually a very pleasant place to stop if you’ve been on the road for a while.

As with nature documentaries, however, there are occasional horror shows.

The T-Rex walk was one of my favorite bits, of course.  It reminded me of that bit in Futurama

There are also numerous photo opportunities throughout the park, which led to one of my favorite recent photos of me.

The sculptures are foam covered in fiberglass and then painted.  A few of them needed touch-ups to their paint but for the most part, the dinos were very well cared for.

There were lots of little showcases throughout the park of dino family groupings.

I particularly liked this one, because a) stegosaurus has long been one of my favorites, and b) it’s so cute when they stand up to get the tall leaves.

There was also a mastodon section, set away from the dinosaurs because chronology.

There was also a set of play areas for children, including a fossil dig and a boneyard that little dino-fans can climb through.  I think there was a picnic styled area where you could bring a lunch, but I’m not positive about that.

Near the main entrance, there’s a smallish indoor exhibit with a few animatronics.  None of the outdoor dinos moved on their own, but this group did.  It just made me miss Universe of Energy more.

Have you ever been to Dinosaur World?

Tokyo DisneySea

In my third weekend in Japan, I went to both of the Disney theme parks in Tokyo.   I’ve already covered Tokyo Disneyland, but the other park was far more interesting to me: Tokyo DisneySea.  There isn’t an analogous park to DisneySea anywhere else in the world.   Many of the rides and concepts in this park are unique to DisneySea.

You still have to use the monorail to get there, however.  I always love the monorail.

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Tokyo Disney’s monorail is not that different on the inside than any other Tokyo rail car, except that the windows and hand grips all have that familiar Mickey shape.  The little red shorts on each hanging ring are especially cute.

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The entry courtyard of DisneySea has a giant rotating Earth.   Hidden on the other side of the Earth in this picture is a line of people waiting for an official Disney photo of them standing in front of the planet.   On the other side of these entry buildings, the rest of the park centers around an area called Mysterious Island, featuring a giant volcano.

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The Easter celebration was going on here as well.

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The ride wait times display near the front of the park was surprisingly analog!  I would have thought that a digital display would be in use here.

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First up is Mysterious Island, home of the Journey To The Center Of The Earth ride.   I have no photos from that ride, but it was certainly fun.

There’s a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride in Japan, but it was closed on the day that I visited.  Fans of the old 20,000 Leagues ride will recognize this submarine from the old Florida 20,000 Leagues ride.  It’s just window dressing here, though-  the ride inside is reportedly very different than the old Florida version.

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This pyramid is part of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride.  It’s really very strange to hear Indiana Jones speaking Japanese.

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Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull is a fun coaster ride.  It has no relation to the movie, however-  this was named Temple of the Crystal Skull years before the development of the movie that shares its name.

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It looks very peaceful, doesn’t it?

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The DisneySea Electric Railway connects different portions of the park.

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This is Aquatopia, a ride which uses the same trackless technology as Pooh’s Hunny Hunt over in Tokyo Disneyland.  If not for a slight buildup of silt on the floor of the ride’s shallow pool, you wouldn’t be able to tell at all where the cars would go.    There was more than one possible track as well, so your car might not go the same way as the car ahead of you, and you might finish slightly before someone who started first.

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I stopped for lunch on the American Waterfront section of the park at a place called the Cape Cod Cook-Off.  I walked to what I thought was the end of the line, and before long I was ordering my food.   What I didn’t realize was that there was a much longer poorly organized line behind me, and that I had accidentally wandered into a character show meal.  Since I was alone, I wound up right in front of the stage.

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Minnie looks good in purple, don’t you think?

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This is Duffy.  The show I accidentally dined in is called “My Friend Duffy,” and it centers around this Disney bear.  Duffy was created in 2002, but he’s most popular in the Tokyo parks.  There’s a great deal of Duffy merchandise available there.  He was reintroduced to the American Disney parks only about five years ago.

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Tokyo DisneySea does have a Tower of Terror ride, but it has no connection to the Twilight Zone branding because OLC didn’t want to have licensing fees to CBS as well as Disney.  Instead, the story is completely different than the Florida version of the ride, and involves a cursed idol.

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While I was walking toward the StormRider ride, some of the Incredibles popped out to meet park visitors.

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Elastigirl was very popular with the kids.

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This is the facade of the StormRider ride.  The StormRider attraction is closing next May to be replaced by a new Finding Nemo/Finding Dory ride in 2017, so I’m glad I saw it when I did.  I have strong opinions about the constant remaking of rides to incorporate newer Disney properties-  I understand why they do it, but I often dislike the changes and miss the original versions.  (In other words, Dreamfinder got a raw deal.)

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But I digress… StormRider is a ride in which you use a specialized aircraft to fly into and diffuse a storm system.  The actual ride is a simulator, similar to Star Tours.   This is the entry area, where the storm diffusion technology is explained to the audience.

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One huge section of Tokyo DisneySea is built to resemble Aladdin’s Agrabah.

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Jasmine’s Flying Carpet ride is basically the same as the Flying Carpets ride in the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Hi, Rajah!

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Another large section of the park, Mermaid Lagoon, is built to resemble King Triton’s palace from The Little Mermaid.

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Naturally, there’s a statue of Ariel.

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And here’s Triton himself, trident in hand, being pulled by two porpoises.    Honestly, the notion of using porpoises like horses never made any sense to me, unless he did it on porpoise to make some sort of political point.

Yes, the entire point of that last bit was to set up a dolphin pun.  Don’t judge me.

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I wanted to go into King Triton’s Concert, but if you look carefully in this photo, you can see that it has a 240 minute wait time.  Two hundred forty minutes.    I was not interested in waiting  four hours to get into this attraction.

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Instead, I waited on line for Raging Spirits.  The premise for this ride is that it’s an archaeological dig, but the temple designs are based loosely on the Incan aesthetic of The Emperor’s New Groove.

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I noticed this sign on the way out of the Raging Spirits coaster, and I totally agree.  Life is an astounding  journey.

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As I was preparing to leave the park, Mount Prometheus started to erupt.  I had no idea it did that!

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Have you ever been to a Disney park outside of the USA?  What did you think?

Tokyo Disneyland

In my third weekend in Japan, I went to Tokyo Disneyland.   This was my first visit to a Disney park outside of the United States, despite having been a stones throw from Hong Kong Disney and Disneyland Paris at other times in my travels.

Tokyo Disneyland had more than 17 million visitors in 2013, making it the world’s second-most visited theme park behind the Magic Kingdom in Florida.  It’s also worth noting that the Tokyo Disney parks are the only ones in the world that are not operated solely by Disney.  They’re owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, who licenses the Disney theme and branding from the Walt Disney Company.  You can’t tell the difference in person, though-  the Disney experience is still the same.

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Despite it being June, they were celebrating Easter.  I’m still not sure why, but it did mean there were lots of adorable rabbit figures in the parks.

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Tokyo Disneyland’s Main Street USA is quite a bit wider than the Orlando version, and it’s covered from the very frequent Tokyo rain.

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This part isn’t all that different than it is in Orlando, except there’s a lot more space in front of and around the castle.

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Ahoy there, little fellow!

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This castle is a familiar sight to so many people.

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One of the sections of Tokyo Disneyland is Toontown.  There’s a Roger Rabbit ride that I wanted to see, but I ran out of time.

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One side effect of the Easter celebration is that various Disney characters were set throughout the park in egg form.  Egg-shaped R2-D2 is sitting in front of Star Tours.

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The Star Tours ride line area here has no Imperial Walker, no trees, no cover at all from the sun until you get into the lobby.  Luckily, the wait times for this one never get too long because there’s an enormous capacity inside.

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The ride isn’t much different, except that all the C3P0 and all the other characters are speaking Japanese.   I have some recordings from my phone, but they’re not clear enough to be blog-worthy.

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In Tokyo Disneyland, Star Tours is right next to Space Mountain.  There’s a certain logic to that, when you don’t have an equivalent of Hollywood Studios.

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It’s A Small World really wasn’t any different than the Florida version.  The egg version of a Small World character in front was part of the Easter celebrations.

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I found the Easter parade.  Seriously.  It was kind of hard to miss.

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The springtime themed Minnie and Clarice Chipmunk outfits are super nice, though.

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In Japan, the costumed characters tend to wander out among the crowds more, instead of staying in one place and spontaneously generating lines of children.

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More egged characters, around the corner from the Country Bear Jamboree.

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The Jamboree was also translated (mostly) to Japanese.  This was a fascinating experience.

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The signs within the park weren’t very helpful for navigation, but the breaks between sections were quite clear.  The ground was also painted a different color in each section, which helped me find my way quite a bit.

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Haunted Mansion wasn’t any different in Japan than it is in Florida, and Pirates of the Caribbean was still Pirates of the Caribbean.  Lots of Jack has been added since the last time I went on the Florida version, but I’m told that the Orlando version has the same Jack stuff added in now.

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For lunch, I shall have a waffle and some lemonade!  I wasn’t in the mood to wait for anything else.

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Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is different than anything that exists in the Florida parks as far as I know.  It’s definitely different than the Florida Pooh ride, which is basically just a retooling of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

The Pooh ride uses a trackless ride technology that I haven’t seen in any of the Florida Disney parks.  Trackless rides are able to cross over existing paths, reverse, and rotate on the spot.  This makes for a really fun ride experience.

In this ride, you sit in a giant Hunny Pot, and zip around.  When Tigger dances, the entire room bounces.  It’s pretty fantastic.    YouTube has some videos that people have filmed going through this ride, if you’re curious.

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On the walkway bridge that separates the parks from transportation are a variety of small sculptures.  Here’s Tinkerbell.

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Chip and Dale dance in front of a bicycle parking lot.

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What’s your favorite Disney ride?