August 7th, 2006

Green Kiki

Learning is fun!

Friday, the in-laws took us to the Georgia Aquarium, which actually, much to my shock, lived up to the hype.

The Aquarium is essentially a huge cavern, around which are situated five major areas.

We started with the River Scout area, which is quite nifty, containing piranha (who are actually pretty boring -- they really ought to have a regular "drop in a cow" event scheduled), small-clawed otters (cute!), and other fun fish. It also has a river running overhead, allowing visitors to see a river environment from underneath. We followed that up with a visit to the Georgia Explorer area, which offers the least to see (and is the only area that had to compensate for its lack of fish with things like slides and climbing areas), but has some nice hand-on experiences (touching sting rays, small sharks, shrimp, and horseshoe crabs).

After that, we moved on to the Cold Water Quest. Oh, wow. It starts off with some small fish and coral (including a Garibaldi Fish, which caused shadesong, Elayna, and I to all say, "Meeester Garibaldi," much to the horror of the in-laws). Then there's the first surprise: Japanese Spider crabs. These things are amazing. If you've ever had cause to doubt those film theory classes blaming all Japanese monster movies on the A-bomb, here's evidence -- these things are a ton scarier (and cooler) than anything that ends up on made-for-Sci-Fi-Channel movies.

Then we get hit with a slew of fun creatures -- sea otters, octopi, penguins, sea lions. Oh, and leafy and weedy sea dragons! If you've never seen either creature live (and unless you live in Australia, it's not likely that you have), the pictures just don't do them justice. Some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures I've ever seen. But they pale in comparison to the final part of the exhibit: beluga whales! I'm not even going to try to put that exhibit into words.

We finally dragged ourselves to the fourth section, the Ocean Voyager area. This is another area that places use underneath the fish. In this exhibit, you get on a very slow moving walkway, and move through a 100-foot tunnel, watching some of the most amazing fish in the world. I can't even begin to name everything we saw, but certainly, the whale sharks had to be highlights. I definitely recall grouper, lots of rays, hammerheads, snappers, and tons of smaller fish. After the walkway, they have a 23'x61' viewing window, the largest in the US. Simply breathtaking.

We ended the gallery part of our trip with the Tropical Diver area, which focused less on the large, majestic creatures, and more on the small, beautiful details. This area has some amazing jellies, including sea nettles and moon jellies. Oh, and garden eels. They follow this up with seahorses, clownfish, glassy sweepers, and other nifty fish. This all leads to a huge simulated reef, complete with some amazingly colorful fish and corals.

After the exhibits, we hit the one sour note -- the "4D" movie, which, like some mutated form of ocean life, manages to suck and blow at the same time. It's a combination of condescending humor that talks down to six-year olds, bad acting, and a message that, although earnest, is so appallingly ham-fisted, it practically undercuts itself. Toss in really, really poor line management, and you've got a huge waste of money. Don't bother adding this option to your visit.

After the movie, we made our way to the cafeteria, which defies all known laws of tourist attractions. It has good food. Really good food. Sure, there's the usual stuff -- burgers, chicken fingers, etc. But there are also things like a goat cheese and mushroom pizza (which is what I had), a lot of fresh salads and sandwiches, ribs, and some incredibly rich desserts (brownies, strawberry shortcakes, etc). If you must spend extra money here, spend it on food, instead of the movie.

Overall, definitely worth a visit.

Yesterday, we (shadesong, Elayna, thryn, and yours truly) visited Fernbank, for the final Chocolate Sunday. Yum! We waited on all the massive sample lines first, snagging dark chocolate filled with cherries and cranberries from Whole Foods, chocolate-covered orange peels from Teuscher, dark chocolate from Godiva, chocolate mousse ice cream from Mayfield, pound cake dipped in melted chocolate from Melting Pot, and chocolate-chip "bagels"* and cookies from Panera. Alas, Chocolate Pink Pastry Cafe never showed up, and Teuscher's promised champagne truffles sounded much better than the orange peel, but we still satisfied our chocolate craving.

Oh, and then there was a museum exhibit to see. :-) The chocolate exhibit doesn't necessarily teach any of the adults anything new, but it is still nicely thorough, doesn't cover up anything (like chocolate's part in the slave trade), and has a lot of nifty old-time chocolate ads, boxes, and wrappers (with all sorts of health claims about Baby Ruth bars being good for you because of the healthy dextrose in them). And, of course, there is a chocolate gift shop at the end of the exhibit. We escaped with only one candy bar. :-)

(It's probably worth noting that this is the one area in which the museum was much better run than the aquarium. At the museum, the chocolate exhibit includes samples and an opportunity to buy more chocolate. But the museum did not once include an opportunity to eat fish (not even caviar). Truly a shame.)

We then spent another hour plus visiting other parts of the museum, including the one what pisses off the morons (evolution), which includes some nifty dinosaur models (of course, the Fernbank atrium has the huge-ass dinosaur bones, which are way cooler). We also hit the hands-on science area, where Elayna had a blast. Elayna also got to pet a boa constrictor (as did the adults).

Definitely a fun and educational weekend.

*Not really a bagel, but a bagel-shaped pastry.
Green Kiki

Wow.

I only first heard mention of this yesterday, and a post today by laurel pointed me towards more information over at JournalFen's Bad Penny community:

A relatively significant* fanfic writer named Cassandra Claire (one who has now landed a professional contract, although with a slight change in spelling to her name) plagiarized major chunks of her works from Pamela Dean's The Secret Country trilogy, as well as from the works of Zelazny, Stoker, Tanith Lee, Blackadder, B5, Buffy, The Tick, and possibly every other work this side of Shakespeare.

You can read the first post (which links to the others) here. Warning: there's a lot of reading here. Reading the full saga is like watching a train wreck. A really, really, really, really long train wreck.

Interestingly, folks participating in the Amazon forums on her upcoming "original" novel already are noting plot similarities to the works of Sherrilyn Kenyon and Joss Whedon.

And I suspect that the audiobook version, if it exists, will contain an "original" beat suspiciously similar to Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure."

*Understand that I don't really follow the fanfic communities, so I'm basing this on what others say.
Green Kiki

Watch those commas!

Anyone who has passed middle-school English should be able to parse this sentence: [The agreement] shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

Alas, the lawyers at Canadian company Rogers Communications seem to have problems understanding it, and it looks likely to cost their company millions of dollars.

(Ganked from Robert Sawyer's blog).
Green Kiki

The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman

Anyone else catch this show? It premiered on IFC on Friday, and I only barely heard about it. Having had a crush on been a fan of Laura Kightlinger since her Stand-up Stand-up days, I was happy to hear that she had a new show, and with Nicholle "Supergirl" Tom as the co-star, I was pretty much a lock for watching it. The first episode started slowly, but picked up nicely as it moved along. It's filled with all sorts of references just for movie buffs, and has a wonderful set of scene-stealing moments by Sally Kellerman in the opening episode. Throw in a nice turn by Azura Skye (poor, doomed Cassie from Buffy) as an anorexic editor from hell, and the show was good enough to get us to set our Tivo for the second episode.

Plus, you've gotta love the tagline: LA Sucks. Jackie sucks back.