Friday, November 04, 2005

Even At Seaworld...

...I can't escape The Ex. How was I to know she'd be performing in a giant saltwater tank in one of Orlando's most popular resorts under the stage name 'Shamu'?

Killer Whale - geddit?

I'm such a wag sometimes.

Goodness, Seaworld is a terribly worthy place though isn't it? Even worse than Animal Kingdom. I've never been a big fan of zoos, and thats what these places are no matter how they may preach about their environmental credentials.

Seaworld has taken this worthiness one step further with their 'Salute to the heroes' - namely the armed forces unfortunate enough to carry out Dubya and Blair's latest adventure. Evidentally everyday heroes like doctors, nurses, teachers, firemen, parents and so on don't count in Anheuser-Busch's world.

My cousin, a pilot in Iraq, finds all this sort of thing tiresome. Rather than this jingoistic fervour he wishes that the energies were better spent in applying pressure on the relevant world-leaders to sort out the mess they've got themselves into.

In fact, Seaworld is certainly waving the flag. Budweiser, it trumpetted, is the only major American-owned beer. Oddly, it was a little quiet about the other important fact regarding Budweiser: it has the colour and flavour of frog's urine.

I'm going home today.

Florida, I've had a great time. But I think I need another holiday to get over this one.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Meaning Of 'Bling'

After the transport experience to KSC (remember folks - 'Gator Tours' feature exceedingly nasty buses) I was somewhat leary about last night. A trip to 'Chef Mickey' at Disney's Contemporary Resort (the ugly Thunderbirdesque triangle-shaped building that the Epcot monorail goes through.)

I'd been assured that transport would be provided by a different company and so I was taken aback to see the biggest stretch limo I'd ever seen cautiously pull up in front of the hotel. A man who looked better suited to the football field rather than squeezed into a penguin suit unfolded himself from the driver's seat and opened the door. Waiting within were a bottle of champagne on ice and a selection of sodas for the kid.

"Wow!" said First-Born, "This is really bling!"

Quite a surreal thing to hear in the squeaky tones of an 8 year-old with an accent often posher than the Queen's.

Of course, she was right. Dahlings, its the only way to travel.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Blind Man's Buff

Ok, so whats with the brail on the signs for the Men's bathroom (or toilet, as we Europeans call 'em, owing to the fact that there's not a bath to be had, unless you're particularly small and brave) ?

It baffles me. Every restroom has had some brail beneath the symbol indicating the gender that may use the facilities.

How does this work? I mean, if you can see well enough to find the symbol on the wall or door, presumably your vision is good enough to understand it?

I have visions of some unfortunate soul, bent over, walking along a wall with one hand frantically moving up and down the paint in search of the brail while the other clutches at their groin in an act of desperation until they stumble across the symbol or set off a fire alarm (in which case the torrent of water from the ceiling will conceal any embarrassing seepages.)

The Ex's new husband is nearasdammit blind, so allow me a moment to enjoy that image before I start feeling guilty.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tightening The Belt

I love it here.

I love the commercial radio. I've yet to find a BBC Radio 4 equivalent and so have been amusing myself listening to the commercials in between the mostly forgettable soft-metal medalies.

One particular ad was particularly strident:

"Looking for a good quality church in your area for you and your family?" (uh, no - I'm looking for one for my dog. Idiot.)

"Then your searching is over! Acme Super-Church is the Church for you!"

I waited in vain for the rider "Your soul may be at risk if you do not keep promises made in the Lord's name. Particulary that one after the Jagermeister incident" to be said in doubletime at the end of the ad.

I love it though. Advertising a church on radio. No mention of demonination, nothing at all. Just show up and get saved.

First-born is a devout girl and didn't understand why I was laughing. I had to explain why I found a "Bible Factory Outlet" store in the Mall hugely amusing too.

Ghost Town

Where is everybody? Seriously, this is really odd.

Day 8, and the only time I've had to queue was for an Epcot ride called "Soarin" (brilliant ride, by the way.)

It would appear that in a cost cutting exercise, Disney has excised 'g' from all words and replaced it with an apostrophe.

Universal, always the poor relation, is doubly wierd. I mean, the staff outnumbered the customers. Did I create that many road-blocks with my awful driving? Have I done to the Florida tourist industry what Wilma failed to do? Can but hope...

That said, I felt more at home in Universal than I did in the UK section of Epcot. Good, old fashioned officiousness abounded. First-born enjoyed one of the deserted rides so much that we went on it again. "Can we just stay on?" I asked the attendant.

"Naw sir, y'all have to go around the entrance again" she replied

We were the only people within a mile of the ride. Tumbleweeds blew through the empty turnstiles.

"You're joking, right?"
"Naw sir. Its fer saftey. Y'all gotta go round again."
"Safety? How is getting out and walking round safer than staying in it?"
"Them's the rules, sir."

There was an implicit threat of calling security if I carried on arguing, so First-Born and I trudged round the deserted queue. While we did so, the 'coaster did its thing. Completely empty. Twice.

Just like being home. It quite brought a tear to my eye.

Drivers tonight should avoid the International Drive area. First-Born and I are going shopping.

Back Down To Earth

I took a break from terrorising the Floridan highways and booked me and First-Born on a trip to Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Centre. Those who know me know that I'm a geek for this kind of thing and after 5 days of The House Of Mouse, I figured I'd earned a treat. First-Born brought along a ruck-sack stuffed full of books.

I should have driven. The tour company, an outfit called Gator Tours, rolled up in perhaps the rattiest bus I'd ever been in since I lived in Scotland. Seats were torn, a strong smell of diesel exhaust pervaded the interior and the whole thing felt... grubby.

My suspicions concerning the condition of the bus were confirmed after it dropped us back at the hotel in the evening and shed a hubcap as it rumbled away, only one tail-light glowing balefully in the darkness.

Shame there weren't showers at KSC. An hour in that vehicle, and I wanted a full body scrub.

I'd not been to the space centre for 15 years. The last time I went, the huge Saturn V moon rocket was outside, looking faintly sorry for itself. Now it was inside and scrubbed clean. However, the loss of the patina made it look brand new and somehow... fake.

Ex-astronaut Bill Pogue was present to answer questions, gritting his teeth as someone asked the immortal "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" question. I wanted to ask what mission control really said when his Skylab crew, the one that went on strike for a day, came back to earth. I didn't, firstly to avoid embarrassing an old man and secondly so First-Born wouldn't have the shame of the whole world knowing what a geek her father is.

I took a tour and listened to the desperately upbeat presentations on the shuttle and ISS programs (my translation: there's a good chance the shuttle won't fly again with funds diverted to pay for the doomed 'Dubya In Space' initiative and the flawed ISS will have to be abandoned without the shuttle to fly the bigger spare parts.)

I looked at the prone Saturn V rocket and the two spare lunar modules (one of which forms part of a show and another hangs from the ceiling like a hunter's trophy) and wondered at the mindset that would expend all the effort to go the mile to build these things and then not go the extra inch to fly them.

Yes, you could say that KSC made me sad. I strongly doubt the US will be in the manned spaceflight business in 10 years time...