Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Random Florida Pics December 2019

We went south for Christmas this year, here are some pictures that didn't make their own post!

Here's a fun yard light display we saw.

Way to decorate an entrance

We took our daughter to the Stuart Ceramics Studio where we painted some pottery. It was a fun outing. We were so busy painting that we didn't take any shots of us painting. And the firing process took too long so we didn't pick our works up before we left to return home. The grandparents will bring it next time they visit.

Stuart Ceramics Shop

We saw a sign recruiting people for a model railroad group. We might have to recommend that to Grandpa.

Any takers?

I saw a crazy-big lizard on the house while I was helping cook the steaks on Christmas day.

Don't tell the kids, they won't want to stay here

We took our youngest out bowling. He had a great time. The alley had bumpers for him but not for his parents. He managed to squeak out a victory thanks to some skillful non-accuracy by his parents. We practiced for splits and spares even when we had full racks. Throwing the ball straight down a side of the lane is pretty hard.

Rolling the ball with all his might

Final scores--go team!

Frosty was at the bowling alley

The youngest child and our daughter teamed up to decorate a rice-crispy cake their granny made. She used a castle-mold which made a very fun shape.

Presenting their signature dessert

In all its glory

Sports were a fun activity at Granny and Grandpa's house. In addition to the ping pong table, our kids tried out some baseball and some swimming. Baseball we played by the garage with a wiffle bat and tennis balls.

This is where to pitch

A solid hit

Close up of the solid hit

 They have a pool in the back yard which our daughter wanted to swim in all the time. One time she fell in "by accident" with her clothes on! She didn't mind at all.

In deep water

Proving that she is in her street clothes

We did a lot of bicycle riding, though it is hard to take pictures in the act. My youngest started figuring out the scooter that seemed sized perfectly for him. 

About to crash into the photographer

Monday, January 27, 2020

Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center

The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart is a fun indoor/outdoor science center devoted to sea creatures. The indoor part is much smaller than the outdoor part.

Fish suncatcher at the front door

Inside is a display of locally-caught fish mounted on the wall. Their species is listed below so visitors can try to match names to bodies. The fish were caught in the Atlantic and Caribbean by Frances Langford, a famous singer and entertainer from the 1930s to the 1950s. She donated the fish and the land for the center!

Guess the fish

Frances Langford (1913-2005)

A couple of tanks show different parts of the sea floor that we'd otherwise never get to see.

Oyster bed, good camouflage for oysters

Sea horse in another tank

The star attraction of the center is ray feeding pool. A couple of times each day, a volunteer gives a talk about rays, describing their biology, habitat, and diet. Our guide showed us some of the stingers rays use to defend themselves.

Ray tank

Spine with stingers

Seeing the rays/petting the rays

Swooping around underwater

After about ten minutes of talking, the volunteers brought out some bits of fish for visitors to feed to the rays. The instructions were simple: hold the fish in your hand with your hand flat against the shelf just below the waterline. The ray will swim up and suck the fish out of your hand much like a vacuum cleaner. The trick is to stay still or the ray won't come near you. We enjoyed feeding even though it was a little scary.

Cousin feeding

Trying to lure the ray

My daughter's success

My son's success

A second turn

My youngest needed my help to hold his hand still under the water. At age five, the situation was intimidating but fun when it actually worked.

The center also had a fun cut out for posing.

Did the ray eat my daughter?

One of the guide's recommendations was to shuffle your feet when you walk along the surf. That avoids stepping on rays accidentally. A stepped-on ray is a stinging ray!

Do the ray shuffle!

Another outdoor tank had hermit crabs and snails. This one snail had a long shell and it would occasionally bury itself in the sand to find tiny critters to eat.

On top of the sand

Buried in sand

Feeling other crabs

At the center's lagoon, they had a shark-feeding demonstration. Visitors were not allowed to hand-feed the sharks, as you might imagine. They would definitely bite the hand that feeds them!

Tossing food out for the sharks

Not the most photo-friendly fellows

Another display let my youngest make bird tracks in the sand with special stamps.


We walked around to the far side of the lagoon for a demonstration on sea turtles. On the way we saw them growing sea grass for use in the lagoon and other spots.

Underwater greenhouse

The turtle demonstration was a little boring because it was all talking. The lagoon turtles eventually swam near but hardly ever surfaced.

The back end sticking out

The front end sticking out

Display of local turtle types

We did enjoy the visit and I picked up a copy of Jonathan Dickinson's journal. He was traveling from Jamaica to Philadelphia and was shipwrecked in the area in 1696. The journal is about his travels north from there to Saint Augustine where locals helped them continue their trip. Dickinson has a major park named after him.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Book Review: My Hero Academia Vol. 12 by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia Volume 12 by Kohei Horikoshi

The students work on signature moves and upgrading their costumes as a prelude to their next test--the Provisional Licensing Exam. It's another all-out battle between the students of several schools, with the top one hundred qualifiers moving on to the next round which will happen in the next volume.

The book has a lot of action but little else going on story-wise. I'm not sure there's any reason a reader couldn't just skip this volume. Only one new character is introduced and most everyone we care about makes it through the exam. It reads like one of those filler episodes on TV shows.

Slightly recommended.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Movie Review: Crawl (2019)

Crawl (2019) directed by Alexandre Aja

Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is a competitive swimmer whose dad (Barry Pepper) has been out of touch for a while. Her sister calls to find out if Haley is okay and if she has heard from their dad. Haley is at a Florida college and their dad lives about two hours south in a small condo since the divorce. The reason for the sister's call is Hurricane Wendy, a category five storm that's about to hit the area. Haley goes south to find her dad. She winds up stuck in the crawl space of their old family home (it never got sold) with dear old dad and a couple of alligators who came in through the storm drain. The basement is dry so the alligators start off walking around slowly. As the hurricane's rain gets worse, the waters rise quickly and the heroes' safety drops precipitously.

For a b-movie premise, the film has a good bit going for it. The actors do a good job and the young woman is not paraded around undressed like you'd expect in a movie like this. The strained relationship between Haley and her dad is unsurprising in its cause and its resolution. The filmmakers provide the standard emotional connection between the characters, hopefully generating some connection for the audience.  Even the red-herring helpers who show up follow the standard playbook for a b-movie horror. The alligators at least make fresh villains (sharks and zombies seem to be hogging up all the limelight lately) and are used in some creative ways. The movie is thoroughly but enjoyable average.

Slightly recommended.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book Review: Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland

Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland by Malachy McCourt

Irishman Malachy McCourt recounts the history of Ireland by writing mini-biographies of people throughout the past 2,500 years. He starts with legendary characters from B.C. times like Finn McCool (or Fionn Mac Cumaill, if you like the more Irish spelling). The book weighs a little heavier on more modern characters. The first half covers 400ish B.C. to the Great Famine in the 1840s. The second half covers the 1850s to 2000 (the book was published in 2004), ending with Bono from U2. The book covers the artistically significant as well as the historically significant.

McCourt is an entertaining storyteller and makes the people come to life. The island had lots of newcomers who more or less took over, usually by force. The natives constantly struggled for their independence; the new people integrated with the locals and became the next people to be disenfranchised by another wave of newcomers. Relations with England were always strained (England was the closest source of newcomers, I suppose). The "troubles" of the 1900s have both roots and mirror images throughout earlier centuries. The personal stories make the history more real and immediate. The homey writing style makes the book read more like stories from a pub rather than lectures on a campus.

The book suffers a bit from overlapping stories. The same events are told two or three times with only a little shift of emphasis. For example, the Easter Rising is described three separate times in fewer than twenty pages. He also has a chip on his shoulder about the Catholic Church, leading him to the silly claim that Saint Brigid was a bishop or to blame Irish misogyny on church influence, as if bad men can't come to misogyny on their own. Even with these flaws, the book is still an entertaining read.

Mildly recommended.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Stuart Beach, Florida

While in Florida we naturally went to the beach. We spent one morning at Stuart Beach on the Atlantic coast. Earlier in the week, the surf was too rough for swimming. We assumed that the surf would be bad again so we didn't bring our swimsuits. Our plan was to go to a different beach later in the day. Unfortunately, the afternoon was rainy. Thankfully, this visit was fun.

Stuart Beach

Since the surf was heavy, the beach had a drop-off by the water. The kids loved jumping off and climbing up a sandy micro-cliff.

By the drop-off

Someone stays, someone goes to the water

A flying leap

Facing the waves

Two jumpers

Getting wet

We did not encourage our children to get wet and could not stop them. We should have just had them wear their swimsuits anyway. Oh well!

Further in the waves

A happy boy

Attempting to dry out, we went to a playground in the parking lot which was small but fun.


A whale of a ride

The bathroom had an incredible mosaic. "Save Our Coral Reefs" by Brenda Leigh depicts a fun seascape. Jensen Beach High School art students helped with creating the mural.

Dolphins swimming toward...

...a mermaid!

Another dolphin headed to a turtle

The back of the building

A big turtle

Rays and other fish

One of the doors